India hope to trade on Kirsten's inside knowledge
India will be relying on South African coach Gary Kirsten for crucial inside knowledge when the two sides meet in the World Cup on Saturday.
India are virtually assured of a quarter-final berth ahead of their blockbuster Group B clash, but Kirsten is aware of the dangers posed by his compatriots, still smarting from their six-run loss to England.
All the Indian players have lauded Kirsten's role in improving the dressing-room atmosphere, with record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkar saying the team owed their successes to the coach.
"Gary has been instrumental in making our batters play plenty of deliveries in the practice session. During net practice, he himself bowls thousands and thousands of balls," said Tendulkar.
"He has been an important member of the Indian squad along with the other support staff. I have enjoyed my game under him. He is really putting in a lot of effort."
Indian cricket has been improving since former Proteas opener Kirsten took over in 2007 after a turbulent era under Australian coach Greg Chappell.
The South African was appointed at a time when fans in the cricket-crazy nation were fast losing faith in the team, especially after a humiliating first-round exit from the 2007 World Cup under Chappell.
It is a tribute to Kirsten's skill and professionalism that India has been improving each year, eventually securing the number-one ranking in Tests and number two in one-day internationals.
India became a formidable force both at home and away under Kirsten, having recently drawn for the first time a tough three-Test series in South Africa and been involved in a close one-day series against the same opposition.
"They have got very different ideas and very different thinking. I have enjoyed bringing the Indian style and a South African influence and connecting the two," Kirsten told cricinfo before the World Cup.
"It is important that they know I'm there and that I will work as hard as possible on helping them prepare for games.
"After all it is the player who needs to be clear in his head in the pressure situation during game time. He can't call to the coach to think for him."
As Kirsten is unlikely to continue as coach after the World Cup due to family commitments, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team will be determined to cap his stint with a major success.
"Apart from having good players in the side, he (Kirsten) was the one thing, you can say the best thing that happened to Indian cricket," said Dhoni.
"He has given the Indian team whatever he could, the best he could, and of course it was a pleasure to have him in the side."
India's best under a foreign coach at the World Cup came in 2003 when former New Zealand captain John Wright played a key role in the team's march to the final in South Africa with Sourav Ganguly as captain.