Mumbai - Gary Kirsten says he's reluctantly given up the reins to India, adding he has no idea what team he'll coach next as a follow-up to winning the Cricket World Cup.
Three days after his contract extension with India ended with the World Cup victory in Mumbai, Kirsten said on Tuesday he turned down repeated requests from the Board of Control for Cricket in India to continue as national coach.
"Believe me when I say that this is one of the hardest of goodbyes that I ever had to say," he said in a press conference at the BCCI Centre.
Kirsten said he's received offers to coach only in the Indian Premier League, but for now, the 43-year-old former South Africa international said he was returning home.
"I just want to take a break," he said. "Even I don't know what I am going to do next."
Kirsten's appointment in December 2007 was a surprise because he'd never coached an international team. Some India commentators were openly critical. He'd distinguished himself as a batsman for South Africa with 21 centuries in Tests and 13 in ODIs until he retired in 2004.
Then he improved his coaching qualifications, joined South Africa's high performance unit and opened his own academy in Cape Town.
Several India players he'd competed against were still around when he became their third foreign coach in March 2008.
Kirsten said he was proud to have achieved his stated goals of leading India to the No 1 ranking in Tests, and its first World Cup title in 28 years.
"It's been a remarkable journey over the last three years with Team India," he read from a statement. "This has been one of the most cherished experiences of my life.
"We set our goals as a team way back in October 2008 - we wanted to become the No. 1-ranked test team in the world and win the World Cup. We have achieved both of those goals and the players of both the test team and the World Cup squad can be extremely proud of this magnificent achievement."
He agreed his successor will have big shoes to fill.
"India is touring England next and they are riding high having won the Ashes. It will be a big challenge," he said. "Also, the team should strive to also be No 1 in ODIs."
Kirsten spoke highly of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who he said was a leader by example.
"I have never seen a player give as much effort to every game," Kirsten said. "He is the 100 percent man. I've never seen him lose his temper. He loves taking responsibility and when the team loses, no one feels it more than him. He is a great leader. He is the captain for the next few years, no doubt."
When asked if India great Sachin Tendulkar should go on to play a seventh World Cup in 2015, Kirsten laughed. "He would be 42 by then, I think, that would be great. He's in great form and is enjoying the game, and I am proud of him."