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It's a misconception that only the captain runs the show, says World Cup-winning coach Gary Kirsten

Aadya Sharma
783   //    29 Apr 2018, 02:57 IST

Gary Kirsten at the talent scout organised in Bengaluru
Gary Kirsten at the talent scout organized in Bengaluru

Despite having had the tag of hosting a pleasant climate for years, the mercury has been soaring pretty high in Bengaluru lately. Lakes are vanishing, some are even catching fire and meteorological records are being broken by the day.

Born in the coastal city of Cape Town, a certain Gary Kirsten is accustomed to the Berg Wind, a hot dry heat wave that blows across his hometown, exactly during these months in South Africa.

Sitting in a sooty Polo in a cricket academy on the outskirts of the Garden City, Kirsten is sweating profusely in the baking heat but doesn't seem to mind it. Armed with a bottle of water, and a cap guarding his shaven head, he is used to the sweltering temperatures in the country.

It is in this country that he spent most of his time from 2008 until 2011, the night of the World Cup final, where his stratagems from behind the dressing room helped realise a billion people's 28-year-old dream. MS Dhoni himself admitted once that it was Kirsten's idea to promote the then-captain up the order in the finale against Sri Lanka.

After a stint as the coach of his home country, and a sabbatical post that, Kirsten, is back to the grind, currently holding the post of Batting Coach for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, a side led by Virat Kohli, the teenager who he gave a place to, in the ODI side in 2008.

The Indian team won their second 50-overs World Cup under the tutelage of Kirsten
The Indian team won their second 50-overs World Cup under the tutelage of Kirsten

He squeezed some time out of his hectic schedule to visit the RX Cricket Academy, as part of the two-day talent scout being done by Gary Kirsten Cricket, his coaching brainchild. Another Kohli could be possibly adjusting his grip in one of the nets around, and Kirsten seems to have been impressed with those who have caught his eye.

"Wherever you go in India, you see talent. I have always enjoyed the flair, the freedom of hands on the ball in the country. There's a lot more informal cricket being played than the structured game in South Africa"

Youngsters in the background, their outsized equipment not hindering their enthusiasm, were swinging away at the red ball in the nets. The country's biggest cricket event is now in its eleventh season, and the impact that it has had on the upcoming generation is fairly evident. The hit that the game's longest format has taken, is also apparent.

Kirsten is the batting coach of RCB for IPL 2018
Kirsten is the batting coach of RCB for IPL 2018

Is it time to start having specialized coaches for different formats?

"I think we are moving into a time where we can start identifying individuals who either have a great straight-bat technique, or either have great power in their strokes," answers Kirsten.

"That would definitely compartmentalize them into two different formats. I look at both of them. I look for someone who aspires to play the longer version and also identify someone who can play with raw power".

"Generally, there's someone who plays with a strong hip rotation and others who play with high front elbow and straight bat".

Opinion will forever be divided on whether youngsters should be fast-tracked to higher grades, or should be worked upon and developed further. A Sachin or a Kohli have been phenomenal at a young age, but the same cannot be said for everyone. Kirsten believes that they should be handled patiently.

"I would encourage coaches around the world to be patient with the youngsters because there are very few that head for the stars at a very young age. You're probably losing more than what you're gaining, so it's good to be patient. These careers are long careers and a few extra years of honing your skills can be of great value".

Kirsten's competitor throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Shane Warne had once famously said that international cricket doesn't require coaches at all. His long-time teammate, Glenn McGrath had stated that it's more man-managing than anything else.

Vettori has been the coach of the RCB since IPL 2013
Vettori has been the coach of the RCB since IPL 2013

Kirsten firmly believes that the role of a coach is 'fairly significant'.

"If a team doesn't do well the coach gets fired so he has a fairly important role. But that's changing now. There a misconception that the captain runs the show. The captain runs the show on the field, which is about 10 percent of the week of a pro cricketer. There's a whole lot behind the scenes that's run by the coach".

He cites the example of RCB's head coach, Daniel Vettori, who must be currently devising plans to help haul his team out of troubled waters and get their IPL 2018 campaign back on track.

"This is especially true in T20 cricket, where there is a lot of science around the game: today you will have someone like Vettori, who is the Head Coach of the RCB, who goes through a huge amount of data to try and strategize a game plan for the next game to get the results you are looking for. Management plays a massive role".

Every individual is unique and requires a different set of needs as a player. Maybe there's a good opportunity for one of you guys to come behind the scenes and see what a coach does in a professional scene. They do quite a bit!", he chuckles.

For a player with over 14,000 international runs and a World Cup in his cabinet, the 50-year-old reminds budding cricketers of the bare basics, and how, at the end of it all, it is important to just relish the game and gain happiness from it.

"The job that we do isn't about just finding talent, it's about the joy that the game of cricket gives. Not everyone is going to make it to the top level, but if they can extract joy and happiness from the game like I did as a kid, it is as important as those who go on to play the game at the elite level".

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