They say that the best of things happen to you when you least expect them to happen. That can also be the story of India’s most successful coach ever, Gary Kirsten. India at that time had mixed results working with overseas coaches, the experiment of John Wright was a super hit, whilst the Guru Greg one failed miserably.
After Chappell’s unceremonious dismissal because of a woeful World Cup campaign, the Indian team had appointed Ravi Shastri for a brief period as the stand in manager. Then Lalchand Rajput was the manager for the World T20 2007 as the search for a full time coach was on. Kirsten in 2008 had very little coaching experience and didn’t even apply for the Indian coach’s role.
He recently recalled how he unexpectedly became coach of the Indian Cricket Team.
“I got an email from Sunil Gavaskar – would I consider coaching the Indian team,” Kirsten said. “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.
“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.”
“…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 about the interview.
“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 was suitably impressed, as was the rest of the board, because three minutes later – I had been in in 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,” the Protea concluded.