Gary Kirsten, speaking on the talkSport’s Following On podcast, revealed how Sachin Tendulkar, who was considering retirement in 2007, was given an environment to prosper under his coaching, which helped the India legend enjoy a late renaissance in his career.
“You just asked him [Sachin], didn’t you, when you arrived, you just asked Sachin, ‘What would you want me to do?'” host Neil Manthorp asked Kirsten. “And he said, ‘Be my friend?”
“Yeah, as simple as that,” Kirsten replied. “I ended up having a great coaching journey with him and that, for me, is where the essence of coaching is now, certainly modern coaching. You’re actually facilitating people’s ability to be the best version of themselves.”
Under Greg Chappell, Kirsten’s predecessor as India coach, the team was ousted from the 2007 World Cup in the group stages, a debacle that Tendulkar blamed Chappell for in his autobiography Playing It My Way. Tendulkar, who played a majority of his ODI career as an opener, was pushed to No.4 for the World Cup, leaving the batsman with a slump in form and an inclination to quit the game.
“If I think of Sachin at that time,” Kirsten said, “where he was when I arrived in India … he wanted to give up the game. According to him he was batting out of position, he wasn’t enjoying his cricket at all. Three years later, he scores 18 international hundreds in three years, goes back to batting where he wants to bat, and we win the World Cup.
“So, for me, all I did was facilitate an environment for him to thrive. I didn’t tell him anything. He knew the game, but what he did need was an environment – not only him, all of them – an environment set up where they could be the best version of themselves.
“My point was more around, ‘Did my personality and my potential style that had sown in me as a player, would it work on the Indians? And I think it was a masterstroke in many ways. No one knew. The Indian senior players, a lot of them good players coming to the end of their careers, but also they had great careers, were probably looking for someone like me.”
Tendulkar enjoyed an exceptional second wind in his 24-year international career, scoring over 6,000 runs at 49.63 across formats after turning 35, including 19 centuries between 2008 and 2013.
“I don’t think I would have worked as well as a coach if I was working with a bunch of …you know, the Virat Kohlis and the guys coming through as younger players,” said Kirsten. “That might have been a tougher journey for me. I always worked better with senior players, because I have always used myself as the senior player in Test match cricket as a reference point. What would I would have wanted for me to thrive?
“And that’s why I respected Eric Simmons as a coach. At the end of my career, because I had a great end to my Test career, I felt that the environment was well set up for me to thrive.”