Former South Africa batsman & Coach Gary Kirsten has revealed how he landed the job of Indian team coach. He was one of the most successful coaches of the Indian cricket team in recent times who led India to no.1 rankings in Tests in 2009 & the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011.
Speaking on the ‘Cricket Collective’ podcast, Kirsten opened up on the “bizarre” series of events that unfolded ahead of his selection as the coach of the Indian team. The former South African cricketer revealed that it took him only seven minutes to fetch the job – and it began with an e-mail from Sunil Gavaskar. “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 also said that when he reached India for the interview, he came across Anil Kumble, who was the captain of India’s Test team at the time. “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.”
Talking about the interview, Kirsten said he had gone unprepared and it was current India coach Ravi Shastri, who was in the selection panel at that time, to “break the ice”. “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 was suitably impressed, as was the rest of the board, because three minutes later – I had been in the interview about seven minutes – the secretary of the board slides across a contract to me,” he added. Kirsten said the contract handed to him at that time had outgoing coach Greg Chappell’s name on it. “(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,” he said.
He was never interested in coaching neither did he apply for the job, but the man led India to their first world cup triumph in 28 years. What an amazing story!