Gary Kirsten Joins Delhi Daredevils for IPL7

Gary Kirsten, the former South Africa batsman and ex-India coach, has been appointed as head coach of Delhi Daredevils from 2014. The franchise announced its association with Kirsten, who has signed a three-year contract, on Tuesday in Hyderabad, the city were Daredevils’ owners, GMR Holdings are based.

TA Sekar, the Daredevils team mentor, said that Kirsten’s name was “suggested” by Eric Simons, who was named the franchise’s head coach in 2012. Simons was the bowling coach when Kirsten was India’s head coach and the pair had played a crucial role in India’s climb up the Test rankings and their 2011 World Cup win. Simons will continue to work with the team, assisting Kirsten.

Kirsten played 101 Tests in an 11-year South Africa career and then, after retirement in 2004, he moved on to coaching, working with the Titans franchise as a batting consultant. In December 2007, he was named India coach. After the team’s success in the Test arena, his three-and-a-half-year stint with India ended with the 2011 World Cup win. He then returned home and took up the South Africa job. In August 2012, South Africa beat England in England to displace them as the No. 1 ranked Test team, and later in the year they beat Australia in Australia to firmly establish themselves at the top of the rankings. He stepped down as South Africa coach at the end of July this year, saying he would like to spend more time with his family than working year-round with an international team allowed.

According to Sekar, Kirsten’s proven credentials and his familiarity with the Indian players made the decision to appoint him easier. Delhi’s poor run in IPL 2013, when they finished last in the league stage, was also an important factor when the management sat down to work out their plans for the future.

“After the last IPL, we sat down to work out what we needed to do to bounce back, considering we did not have a good season in 2013. Eric himself suggested that now that Gary wasn’t South Africa coach, why don’t we consider him (for the head coach). We approached him and he finally agreed,” Sekar said.

Kirsten said it was a “relatively easy” decision to make because of Simons’ recommendation, though he did state that he was entering a format where he did not have much experience. “It is a massive privilege and honour to be involved in franchise cricket. It is a first of its kind for me, having done two international stints,” Kirsten said at the media conference. “I am very excited and I am looking forward to the challenge. I am looking forward to adding value and hopefully bringing something to the franchise and help them perform as well as they can.”

According to Kirsten his past success as an international coach did not guarantee that he could make Delhi the best IPL team overnight. He also admitted that franchise cricket was a “new space” for him.

“There is no silver bullet. It is a process that needs to unfold. I am relishing that challenge that sits in front (of me),” Kirsten said. “A whole lot of things have to work out right. We have an auction process in the IPL. It is a critical process, in terms of getting the type of players that you want that fit into strategies.

“There is no guarantee to performance. All I can I offer is the best of my thinking. Delhi Daredevils, from what I have seen have had some success, and good success, too. So we need to learn from the success that they have had, as well as learn from where it has been tough, from where the team hasn’t done well.”

Having not had much experience in the T20 format, Kirsten said he would rely on “lieutenants” like Simons and Sekar to help him out. “Your basic philosophy doesn’t change. My challenge will be that I haven’t had a huge amount of experience at T20 cricket and no experience in the IPL. So my lieutenants, and the people that I am working closely with, are going to be very important in that space,” Kirsten said.

According to Kirsten, a coach could play a significant role in the team’s success: “From a coaching perspective, it is even more exciting because there is a lot happening very quickly. And you are making a lot of changes and shifts in a short space of time. I am looking forward to that constant movement and the coach can play a significant role.”

Sekar stressed that Kirsten’s strength as a leader also played an equally important role his appointment. Kirsten is the Daredevils’ third overseas coach after Australian Greg Shipperd and Simons. “[He is] a good leader, good communicator, good man-manager and he has very good track record. IPL is a tournament where both Indians and overseas players play together and Gary relates to both sets of players well,” Sekar said.

Kirsten, 45, had stepped down as South Africa’s coach, stating that he needed to be with his young family. However, Sekar said Kirsten would not face a similar issue during his IPL stint, because he would need to be away for a short term annually: “Though he takes over immediately in terms of strategising the team plans, he will be in India for two months and they [Kirsten’s family] might come for a month.”

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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