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Gary Kirsten Cricket India: Creating world-class cricket talent in Pune through redefined drills

Former South African cricketer, and coach Gary Kirsten’s academy in Pune boasts of syllabus-based training, video analysis facilities and training nets with soil from different countries

pune Updated: Jul 04, 2018 16:29 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Cricket,Gary Kirsten
Ryan Van Niekerk (left), head coach of Gary Kirsten Cricket India, during a training session in Khadki.(HT PHOTO)

After guiding India to their first World Cup win in nearly three decades in 2011, former South African cricketer and coach Gary Kirsten, is gearing up to woo Indian hearts as his academy, the first of its kind in the country, will be opening at Kalyaninagar in August 2018.

While Pune may not be a pocket for cricketing talent in the country, there were several aspects the entire Gary Kirsten Cricket India (GKCI) team considered before announcing the academy in the city. Explaining the decision to launch in Pune, Anand Mittal, chief executive officer, GKCI, said, “There may not be too many players from the city that have represented the national team, but there is tremendous talent in Pune and its neighbouring smaller cities. We setup a talent hunt and were surprised to see players from Kolhapur and Satara being picked. This would not be possible in a bigger city like Mumbai or Delhi, so we decided on Pune as our ideal destination.”

The man himself, Gary Kirsten, spoke exclusively to Hindustan Times, explaining the decision to pick Pune and what the message he plans to convey through his state-of-the-art academy.

What made you pick Pune for opening the academy, given how it is not one of the pockets for cricketing talent in the country?

First of all, I would think anywhere in India would be brilliant to open an academy as the passion and commitment to the game of cricket in India is unprecedented. We connected with our now business partners a year ago when they flew to Cape Town and met us and they are from Pune. So to start with, we will look to establish a home base in Pune and then expand to different areas around India as things start to grow. The sport has given me so much and to see how much cricket means to the people of Pune, I am excited to see young players will thrive.

How is the academy different from others?

We are here to provide a quality service to young players across India. We have sent one of our head coaches from South Africa to run the project and create the continuity we have built over the years. I will be involved at different stages with the team to help build the academy further. We also have a coach education program, which all our coaches and coaches around India can access to improve and grow further in their coaching.

What are your aims and aspirations behind launching the academy?

When I finished playing, I had a huge desire to give back to the game what it gave me, all while providing a quality service and platform for young players to explore the game of cricket and have fun ultimately.

Being the World Cup winning coach of India, do you think opening an academy under your name would encourage youngsters to pursue the sport professionally?

Not really. The passion for the game of cricket in India is incredible. Even without my name, people are looking for a quality service that will allow them to grow in their games as best as possible. I like to encourage players to first and foremost play the game because they love it. Success isn’t guaranteed, but we will provide a platform which gives unique ideas to players and encourages hard work day in and out doing what they love.

How do you plan to market the academy in the city?

We will have a state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor facility which will enable training throughout the year, which isn’t always possible in India. We have our marketing teams who will use different platforms to share our story and what we are trying to create. We will also be teaming up with clubs and schools to share information and knowledge so that everyone is included.

With the game moving to the shorter format, how difficult do you think it is to encourage test batsmen and bowlers to remain patient and motivated at the same time?

Not that difficult at all. Most of the best T20 players are also the best test players. With so much cricket being played around the world these days, it’s far easier for players to adjust to the different formats. It’s expected of them. It’s so exciting watching players these days execute in different formats and I think the test format will enter a new era with the test championship announced.

The academy

Mittal also emphasised on the importance of scouting players from tier 2 and tier 3 cities as he believes there is an abundance of raw and unearthed talent in such places. He believes in targeting players that are not just doing well for a club or professional team, but who also have the passion for the sport and the willingness to learn and improve their game from the experts the academy has at its disposal.

Giving an international perspective, Ryan Van Niekerk, the head coach of the academy, explained why he felt that Pune was the optimum place to build the Gary Kirsten brand in the country.

He said, “We’ve had numerous offers from India to come and setup an academy in the past. But Gary is a bit reserved in his ways as he wanted to build the brand to a certain point before expanding it. We were then introduced to Anant, who was based in Pune, so we went ahead with it here. Also, the knock-on effect was Pune having to withdraw from the Indian Premier League as the Chennai and Rajasthan franchises returned to the fray. I have been to a number of cities in India and Pune is one of the best. It has great climatic conditions and is not as chaotic as the rest of the cities.”

Van Niekerk as well as Mittal are well-informed about the number of academies in the city as well as the country and believe they have the recipe to help them stand out from the rest as they are looking to offer their players something unique. Apart from the on-field training, their practice will also be syllabus-based and will include the several je ne sais quoi about cricket.

“We have a number of well-versed training programmes and syllabus-based training methods. Also, by having Gary Kirsten as a sounding board, it conveys to the public that we have world-class knowledge. We also have a culture education programme that aims at sharing our knowledge gained travelling the world with parents and coaches. Rather than just starting another academy, we’re investing to build on what he have created in the last four to five years back in South Africa and this helps us doing just that.”

One thing that has certainly helped the Gary Kirsten academy stand out from the rest is the fact that it is open to all. Unlike other academies or clubs that have a selection process and only pick the best of the best, they are planning to coach everyone ready to learn the game. With different levels of training difficulties based on the player’s cricketing experience, the experts will gauge every little aspect of the individual’s game and prepare him for the next level.

Where will the training facilities be?

While it is common knowledge that the facility will be at Kalyaninagar, Mittal gave little away as to where it will exactly be situated as a deal is still to be finalised over the ownership. However, he did confirm that it will range up to 1.5 lakh square feet and the first phase of the academy will be launched in the month of August.

Giving an insight on the facilities they are planning to provide once their academy is launched, he said, “We’re making no compromises with our infrastructure as we want it to be world-class. There are plans for at least four to five indoor cricket lanes so that we can make the most of the monsoon season. There will be video analysis facilities setup on each of the pitches and we will also have data aggregators. Outdoor, we plan to have 10-15 grass pitch lanes and we’ll be getting soil from different countries so as to prepare our players of different pitch conditions around the world. We will also have a sports science lab, a sports gym and a dormitory stay for over 50 kids.”

What players have to say

Amey Kataria

“The training methods here (GKCI) are completely different from what is currently available in India. Each training session is completely different from the earlier, so it ensures that the players don’t get bored. In case there’s anything tough about the training, it goes by in a fun-loving way rather than anyone feeling sorry about themselves or giving up. I’m looking forward to joining the academy as I’m impressed with everything it has to offer and hopefully will help me become a better player.”

Shubham Ranjane, all-rounder for Maharashtra state team:

“Gary Kirsten is one of the biggest names in South African cricket, so when someone like him sets up an academy, one has to expect the best. I do not know in great detail how the academy will take shape, but from what I have been reading, it will certainly be something worth reckoning with. Sports gyms and data analysis devices are beneficial for every cricketer.”

Jaydeep Jadhav, all-rounder for PYC and Pune district:

“I think opening an academy in Kalyaninagar will be good as I don’t think there are any reputed ones there. From what I have heard, they are focusing on every aspect of the game, which is very important for youngsters. Also, the Gary Kirsten name adds value to the brand and it is bound to be a success.”

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 16:20 IST