Ahmedabad: The Indian cricket team’s South African coach Gary Kirsten credits former New Zealand captain and ex-coach John Wright for providing him with insights on how to approach one of the toughest and most demanding jobs in the game.
Before accepting the post in early 2008, Kirsten pored over “John Wright’s Indian Summers”, a book detailing the New Zealander’s time on the subcontinent in charge of a team of rock stars and multi-millionaires.
According to the web site stuff.co.nz, what Kirsten learnt was that he and Wright had more in common than simply being doughty left-handed opening batsmen who served their respective countries with distinction over long careers.
“I read that book very closely. I took a lot out of his philosophies and how he approached the whole environment. Through his book, I tried to understand his approach to the players. It’s very generic, you know, it’s very broad based,” 42-year-old Kirsten said.
“I was going to formulate my own style with each player anyway but it helped to know that John Wright was very much a low key, not standing on the parapet, type of individual who worked in the background,” Kirsten adds.
That was certainly not the case with the man who followed Wright, Australian great Greg Chappell, whose forthright manner alienated some Indian players during an acrimonious reign from 2005 to 2007.
Kirsten said the opportunity to coach the Indian cricket team using some of the methods applied by Wright excited him.
He said: “It excited me because if that had been a success in Indian cricket then that was what I was going to do anyway. It was a natural thing for me to do but it really helped to know it had worked for him.”
Kirsten, who retired in 2004 after playing 101 tests for South Africa, walked into a potential hornet’s nest stirred up by Chappell’s fractious player relations and it took some time for him to settle into his role.
He has since managed the job with aplomb, with India rising to the very top of the International Cricket Council test rankings.
“As a foreign coach, you need the win the players over, you need to build trust with each individual and build an environment where they are comfortable with you,” he said.