Cricket World Cup 2011
Sachin heaps praise on Kirsten
Gary Kirsten (Gallo)
Mumbai – A few South Africans finally held cricket’s World Cup aloft on Thursday, even if it was in the light-blue of India.
Gary Kirsten, outgoing coach of India, and his two South African assistants, Eric Simons and Paddy Upton, are considered three of the main reasons why India were able to break their World Cup drought of 28 years.
India beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.
The match was Kirsten’s final one in charge of the Indian team, which he inherited in 2007 from Australian Greg Chappell.
The former opening batsman, who represented South Africa in more than 100 Tests and one-day internationals, has already said that he will not stay on and will return to South Africa with his family.
Simons, who previously coached the Proteas and has been assisting with the coaching of India’s bowling attack, and Upton, the team psychologist, will also return to South Africa.
“I am completely speechless and for the first time in many years I don’t know how to express myself,” Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar said after the match.
“Gary and the rest of the coaching team deserve all the credit because they started preparing us for this a year ago. They made an enormous difference to the team and we will miss each one of them a lot.”
According to Tendulkar, who made the last of his 45 World Cup appearances on Saturday, the final was the highlight of his career that has spanned more than two decades.
“This is without a doubt the best moment of my life because I have been waiting for it for so long,” he said.
“I have been dreaming about holding the World Cup for the past 22 years, but it never became a reality. The feeling was worth the wait and I could not help but shed a tear.”
Tendulkar, who is cricket’s leading runs scorer, had been part of five unsuccessful World Cup campaigns prior to the final.
“My biggest dream has always been to win the World Cup, but there were times that it looked as if it would never happen,” he said.
“Fortunately the coaching staff and team got it right this time. The trophy is not just for the 15 players and the coaching staff in the dressing room, but for the entire country.”
Upton, who is one of South Africa’s most respected sports psychologists, said that the success had not come overnight.
“Gary, Eric and I asked ourselves a year ago whether we were ready to win the World Cup,” he said.
“We already believed then that we had the team, talent and skills. However, we weren’t ready from a mental perspective.”
The South African trio then put their shoulders to the wheel.
Even so, it was not always easy under the pressure of so many fanatical supporters, Upton said on Saturday night.
“There were many challenges, but we just kept talking about when, and not if, we would win the cup. It was really satisfying to be able to look at one another in the dressing room afterwards and say: we have done it.”
Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola was also full of praise for the 43-year-old Kirsten, who until recently has been viewed as one of the favourites to take over from Corrie van Zyl as Proteas coach.
“We are very proud of the important role that Gary, who is one of our cricketing heroes, played in India’s triumph,” said Majola.