South Africa 1993-2004
Gary made his Test debut against Australia in Melbourne in 1993. He retired from international cricket in 2004 after crafting a match-winning 76 in his final innings, against New Zealand. Against the same country he had made history by becoming the first ever Protea to play in 100 Test matches.
As an international cricketer, Gary Kirsten was known by his peers as a man on whom the team could depend in times of crisis. His ability as an opening batsmen that could withstand enormous pressure from the fastest bowlers in the world to the guile and cunning of the most crafted spinners was legendary. In playing 101 Tests and 185 ODI’s for South Africa, and the fact that he was able to score a century against every Test playing nation bears testimony to his ability to adapt to all conditions and to understand the dynamics of every bowling attack.
His greatest achievement with the bat will always be the record-equalling score of 275 against England, an innings that lasted over 14 hours and 30 minutes and epitomised his complete self-discipline.
He still holds the record for highest innings by a South African in a One Day International; 188 not-out made against the United Arab Emirates during the 1996 World Cup, which is the sixth highest innings of all time in One-Day International cricket, and the highest score in World Cup cricket history.
Team India 2008-2011
After retirement, Gary Kirsten started his Cricket Academy in Cape Town. In November 2007, it emerged that Gary Kirsten was a candidate for the vacant post of Indian coach. The BCCI offered him a two-year contract for the post, and despite voicing reservations about concerns he had about having the full support of India players, he confirmed he would be taking the job on 4 December.
Gary Kirsten officially started as coach on 1 March 2008. However, he traveled to Australia with India beforehand during the test series. His first full series in charge was against his home country, South Africa in March–April 2008 which was drawn 1-1. Also, he coached India to the finals of the Kitply Cup and 2008 Asia Cup (India lost both the finals). During his tenure as Coach of India, Indian cricket team won a home series against Australia beating them 2-0. Apart from clinching the Border-Gavaskar trophy, he also coached India to its first bilateral series win in Sri Lanka against Sri Lanka and India’s first One-Day International series victory against New Zealand in New Zealand after 40 years. India also won the Compaq Cup, defeating Sri Lanka in the finals on 14 September 2009 by 46 runs.
A highly accomplished batsman himself, he has brought in a considerable amount of improvement in the batting performances, which is largely associated with his ability to instill better confidence among younger players.
Gary Kirsten has been praised by all players for improving / enhancing their playing techniques, motivating them and discussing tactics that can be deployed on the field. The results could be clearly seen within months. He is considered the key force behind the clearly visible performance improvement in all players. In 2010, Prior to the start of India’s tour of South Africa, Indian captain M.S. Dhoni described him as “The best thing to happen to Indian cricket.”
World Cup 2011 India
After the tour of South Africa, which India drew 1-1 in the Test series lost 3-2 in ODIs, Gary Kirsten announced he would not renew his contract with BCCI because of family commitments. Gary Kirsten often stated that he wanted to spend time with his two growing sons, Joshua and James, and wife and said three years away from home was long enough.
Immediately after the announcement Gary Kirsten was linked with joining South Africa as their coach as the South Africa coach Corrie van Zyl also announced his contract would end after the World Cup as well.
Gary Kirsten ended his tenure as coach after India won the 2011 Cricket World Cup defeating Sri Lanka by 6 wickets and 10 balls to spare on 2 April 2011 at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, India.
During the celebration, he was carried around the ground by Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan and Virat Kohli to show their respect.
His term as coach to the Indian side had come to an end with the Indian team’s victory amidst various media reports of very lucrative offers from various quarters from the cricketing world. But he has cleared the air by adopting a modest approach on his further availability as coach to the Indian team by saying that he has no offer and he wanted to say goodbye to India for the reasons that he wants to spend time with his family.
South Africa 2012-2013
In June 2011, Gary Kirsten was appointed the head coach of the South African national cricket team and began the process of unlocking the potential within the local cricket system. In August 2012 his efforts were rewarded when South Africa beat in England in England 2-0 to rise to Number One in the Test team ranking.
Under Gary’s guidance, the Proteas lost only two of the 19 Test matches they played, claiming series victories against New Zealand, Australia, England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Their one-day international record was not as emphatic, albeit still respectable, with 13 of their 24 games ending in victory. In the T20 format, the Proteas won half of their 18 games during his tenure.
In the month preceding the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, Gary announced his decision to leave his position as head coach of the national side to spend more time with and concentrate on his young family. He would perform his duties until the end of the Champions Trophy, while his assistant, Russell Domingo, was subsequently named as his successor.
The Champions Trophy proved to be one step too far, though, as not even one of the most successful coaches in South Africa’s cricketing history was able to claim success at an ICC event. The Proteas managed to reach the semi-finals but lost to hosts England, who, in turn, lost to Kirsten’s former team, India, in the finals.
As a coach and mentor to some of the greatest players in the history of cricket, Gary Kirsten has needed to understand the dynamics that would see them perform consistently over a period of time and when it mattered most.
Creating a winning culture and self-belief in both the Indian and South Africa teams had been a process. The experience and insight gained throughout his tenure as coach of both powerful test playing nations has included far more than cricket itself. It is his skill for getting the best out of his players whilst maintaining their respect both on and off the field that has made him an inspirational leader. Under his guidance the Team India united a nation to achieve a dream and the South African team returned to the coveted Number One Test ranking.
Gary’s Top 10 Sport Books
Mental Keys to Hitting – Harvey Dorfman
They Call Me Coach – John Wooden
Winning Ways – Clive Woodward
My World– Jonny Wilkinson
The Steve Jobs Way – Jay Elliot
Into Thin Air – John Krakauer
Sacred Hoops – Phil Jackson
The Edge of Greatness– Michael Schumacher
In Black and White – The Jake White Story
Boris Becker – The Player