Gary Kirsten was never interested in coaching and so when an invitation to appear for an interview for the India job landed in his email, he paid no heeds. In fact, the email from the legendary Sunil Gavaskar in 2007 seemed like a hoax to the former South Africa international. Also Read - Virat Kohli is Being Dragged Into Absurd Allegations: Cornerstone CEO on Conflict of Interest Claims
He never answered. Also Read - Sourav Ganguly Explains Why Fast Bowling Culture Has Changed in India
And then came another email before Kirsten, although circumspect, began taking the offer seriously. Also Read - Selection is Where India Have Gone Wrong in ICC Tournaments: Nasser Hussain
“I got an email from Sunil Gavaskar – would I consider coaching the Indian team,” Kirsten recalled on the Cricket Collective podcast. “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 added.
Kirsten, who had no coaching experience prior to that, flew to India for the interview, unprepared and met with the then India captain Anil Kumble who was equally surprised.
“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,” he said.
Kirsten became one of the most successful coaches in India cricket history. guiding them team to their second ODI World Cup title apart from securing the top-ranking in Test cricket as well.
Kirsten explained the intimidating environment of the selection interview and when asked to present his view about the future of Indian cricket, Kirsten said he didn’t have one.
“…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.
However, the current India coach Ravi Shastri, who was part of the panel, eased the situation.
“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 recalled.
And all it took was seven minutes for him to land the job.
“He (Shastri) 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 said.
However, the contract presented to Kirsten 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.