ICC Cricket World Cup: Eyes on Gary Kirsten as South Africa prepare for India
Having coached one team to the World Cup title, Gary Kirsten is now helping plot another nation`s bid for the coveted prize -- and the two will meet when India take on South Africa on Sunday.
Kirsten, the former South African opening batsman, was India`s coach when Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s men won the World Cup in Mumbai four years ago.
He left the job immediately after the tournament to take over as South Africa`s coach, serving the Proteas for two years before handing the baton to his deputy Russell Domingo.
The 47-year-old is now back with AB de Villiers` side as a consultant for 50 days a year and joined the squad on Wednesday after returning from the players` auction in the Indian Premier League (IPL) where he coaches the Delhi Daredevils franchise.
Kirsten will be at hand to watch the two sides meet at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday in a key Pool B match which will almost certainly assure the winner a place in the quarter-finals.
Both teams won their opening games with India thrashing arch-rivals Pakistan by 76 runs in Adelaide and South Africa beating neighbours Zimbabwe by 62 runs in Hamilton.
Kirsten was not around in Hamilton when the mighty Proteas slipped to a nervous 83 for four before brilliant centuries from David Miller and JP Duminy turned the game around against their lowly-ranked rivals.
South Africa have never won the World Cup despite being one of the most powerful sides in modern-day cricket and Kirsten`s input will be vital as the Proteas seek to overcome the "chokers" tag.
"I`m desperately hoping that we win the World Cup this year," Kirsten told the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper, but added he will not be carried away emotionally by Sunday`s match.
"In a professional environment, work is work. Whatever the colours you wear, you`re expected to give your best shot. In today`s world, little is unknown as information spreads fast and gets shared."
Kirsten is not the only one in the South African set-up with Indian connections. Bowling coach Allan Donald is involved with the IPL and trainer Gregory King was with the Indian squad for four years till 2007.
Several players, including skipper de Villiers, Duminy, Miller and fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, ply their trade in the IPL.
Australian Mike Hussey, who was taken on board by the South Africans specifically for the World Cup, has also been an IPL regular since its inception in 2008.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar said the expertise of Kirsten and Hussey could benefit South Africa and urged Dhoni`s men not to think about them too much.
"Kirsten knows how people react in the Indian dressing room," said Gavaskar. "Hussey has also played in the IPL. They will try and tell how to play spinners, how to negotiate 20 overs of spin.
"It will help to an extent but then a lot depends on how they play on the field. It will only help South Africa if India think too much about Kirsten and Hussey. These things are peripheral."
India have never beaten South Africa in the World Cup, having lost all three times in 1992, 1999 and 2011.
Kirsten, who played 101 Tests and 185 one-day internationals between 1993 and 2004, holds the record for the highest individual score at a World Cup -- 188 off 159 balls against the United Arab Emirates in Rawalpindi in 1996.