'Captains running the show is misconception': Kirsten
Renowned Proteas opener and now coach, Gary Kirtsen, in a conversation with Aditya K Halder, firmly states that cricket is a team game and crediting only the captain would be myopic.
Coaching is probably the most thankless job across sports disciplines. When a team does well, the lion share of the credit is given to the player and, when a side endures a tough time, coaches are often made the scapegoats. Looking at the recently-concluded India's domestic league football season, as many as 11 coaches were fired among the 20 clubs that plied their trade in Indian Super League and I-league combined.
In cricket, the situation is not that dissimilar. In fact, it only gets worse as it is perceived that gaffers are not really needed at the bigger stage. The idea got its fuel from 2007, when a 25-year-old MS Dhoni led a young Indian team to World Cup triumph in the inaugural World T20 Championship. The Men in Blue went into the extravaganza sans coach.
However, World Cup-winning coach Gary Kirsten firmly disagrees with this school of thought and deems it a massive misconception. "Coaches have a big role to play as far as the elite level is concerned. Coaches are fired if the team doesn't do well, so they have a key role to play. It's a misconception that only captains run the show. He is at the helm of things on the field. However, once off the ground, the coach is the boss. On field job is only 10 per cent of the work; a lot more happens behind the scenes," said the 50-year-old former Indian coach.
He further explained how T20 has evolved over the years and expecting a captain to take care of an entire team alone is too much to ask for. "Back in 2007, T20 was at a nascent stage; the game has gone through a lot of tactical changes. For example, you won't see a team often willing to use a part-time bowler as its fifth bowling option anymore. There's a lot of science involved in T20 now. At Royal Challengers Bangalore, you will see someone like (Daniel) Vettori, who goes through a lot of data to devise a strategy for the next game. Management plays a huge role, a captain can't do all of that alone," says Kirsten, who currently is a mentor of IPL franchise RCB.
Nonetheless, the gaffer doesn't downplay the importance of a captain in the game as he believes it is the captain's job to activate the plans which have been decided in the dressing room earlier. Kirsten, who has worked as a coach in South Africa and India, believes that coaching in both the nations is not very dissimilar as the passion for the sport remains unparalleled. However, the abundance of talent in India does delight him.
"Coaching in both the nations is more or less the same as coaches try to provide a platform and give players the tools to succeed at different levels. The approach might require small shifts, but, essentially, players have similar goals and aspirations along the way. There is a passion for sport in both countries which is exciting.
"But, what excites me more is that there is talent everywhere I go in India. I have always enjoyed the flair, the freedom of hands on the ball here. There's a lot more informal cricket player here compared to the structured cricket in South Africa," said the former Proteas opener.
Apart from IPL, Kirsten recently launched a cricket academy in India. The Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy, located in Pune, is currently focused on cherry-picking six budding players each from the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Chennai, including Pune. The best of the lot will be granted a scholarship of Rs two lakh.