Gavaskar’s email, laugh with Kumble, Shastri’s ice-breaker: ‘Bizarre’ events before Kirsten’s appointment as India coach
For fans of the Indian cricket team, Gary Kirsten ranks right up there as perhaps the country’s greatest coach of all time. Under Kirsten, India reached the pinnacle of the ICC Test rankings in 2009 and two years later, lifted the World Cup at home. However, fans may find it surprising to know that Kirsten was not interested in taking up a coaching in any capacity. In fact, he hadn’t even applied for the role in the first place.
So how did Kirsten get selected for the post after all? In a recent interview, the former South Africa opener recalled the series of events that led to him being appointed as the Head Coach of Indian Cricket Team in 2007 and what roles former cricketers Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Anil Kumble played.
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Speaking on the ‘Cricket Collective’ podcast, Kirsten recalled that the process started when he received an email from Gavaskar, who back then, was part of the coach selection panel.
“I got an email from Sunil Gavaskar - would I consider coaching the Indian team,” Kirsten recalled. “I thought it was a hoax. I never even answer it. He sent me another email, and said, ‘Will you come for an interview?’. I showed it to the wife, and she said, ‘They must have the wrong person’. So it was a bizarre entry into the whole thing, and rightly so. I mean, I had no coaching experience or anything,” he said.
Kirsten further recalled meeting former India spinner Kumble after he had landed in India. Kumble and Kirsten had played against each other for a number of years, and the former opener revealed how they initially shared a laugh regarding the whole thing.
“I went for the interview, it was a bizarre experience in many ways because I kind of arrived at the interview and I see Anil Kumble, who’s the current Indian captain, and he says, ‘What are you doing here?’. I said, ‘I have come for an interview to coach you!’. So we kinda laugh about it. It was quite a laughing matter,” Kirsten said.
Kirsten, who did not have any prior experience of coaching an international team before, further recalled how Shastri, one of the people interviewing him for the position, broke the ice with an interesting question.
“...I am in this board meeting with these BCCI officials, and it was quite an intimidating environment; the secretary of the board said, ‘Mr. Kirsten, would you like to present your vision for the future of Indian Cricket?’, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t have one.’ No one had asked me to prepare anything for it. I had just arrived there,” Kirsten said.
“Ravi Shastri, who was on the committee, said to me, ‘Gary, tell us, what did you guys as the South African team do to beat the Indians?’. I thought it was a great ice-breaker, because I could answer it and I answered it in about two-three minutes without saying strategies that we kind of probably use to this day,” he said.
As it turns out, it was just a matter of time - seven minutes to be precise - before Kirsten got the job.
“He was suitably impressed, as was the rest of the board, because three minutes later – I had been in at the interview about seven minutes – the secretary of the board slides across a contract to me,” he added.
“(I) pick up the contract, and the first page, I am looking for my name frantically, and I can’t see my name, but I see Greg Chappell’s name, who was the previous coach.
“So I slide the contract back and I say, ‘Sir, I think you have given me your previous coach’s contract. He kind of looks at it a little bit perturbed, and takes out a pen from his pocket, scratches out his (Chappell) name and writes my name on it,” Kirsten further recalled.
(With PTI inputs)