ICC Champions Trophy

Familiar foes for Kirsten

2013-06-05 14:22
Gary Kirsten (Gallo)

Cardiff - Gary Kirsten begins his final stint as South Africa's coach against former team India in the Champions Trophy opener in Cardiff on Thursday.

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The last time the two teams played a one-day international, during the 2011 World Cup, Kirsten was on the other side as India's coach, plotting their eventual title triumph on home soil.

Former South African opener Kirsten left India after the World Cup to take up the job with his home country, leading Graeme Smith's side to the top of the world rankings in test cricket.

The final edition of the Champions Trophy will be the popular 45-year-old's last assignment with South Africa, before he makes away for his deputy Russell Domingo in order to devote time to his family.

South Africa's one-day captain, AB de Villiers, hoped his side, often ridiculed as chokers for their failure to win major titles, will give the coach a fitting farewell by winning the eight-nation tournament.

"It would be nice to give him a good farewell," said de Villiers. "He's been a great coach to us. We've learnt a lot from him in the few years that he's been with us.

"He's more like a mentor on the team. I find it funny calling him coach because no one calls him coach. He's almost like one of our friends and a mentor kind of guy."

Kirsten will be up against an almost new-look Indian squad with just three players – skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina – having played in the World Cup final against Sri Lanka in Mumbai two years ago.

India go into the tournament as the top-ranked one-day side, but have lost five of their last seven internationals against South Africa, including a three-wicket defeat in the World Cup in Nagpur.

The Proteas are often regarded as the best side never to have won cricket's showpiece, the 50-over World Cup, or the World Twenty20, and de Villiers was desperate to set the record straight.

"We represent a very proud cricketing nation, and we'd like to make them proud in this tournament."

But South Africa's prospects of making a winning start could be hampered if star fast bowler Dale Steyn is ruled out with the side strain that meant he only bowled five overs in a warm-up match against Pakistan.

The Proteas have misfired so often in major events that few can recall their victory in the inaugural ICC knockout tournament in Bangladesh in 1998, an event that later became the Champions Trophy.

Dhoni's men, meanwhile, will look to draw millions of their fans back to on-field cricket issues following the unsavoury spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League that has hogged the media spotlight for the past fortnight.

Three IPL players have been arrested, while the powerful Indian cricket chief Narayanswamy Srinivasan stepped down temporarily on Sunday after his son-in-law was also accused of spot-fixing.

The Indian team got a boost ahead of the tournament when it received a shield and a cheque of $175 000 from the International Cricket Council for being the top-ranked one-day side at the annual cut-off date of April 1.

"I am very proud of this huge achievement," Dhoni said. "Being No 1 brings with it a certain respect for the game itself and for the way in which we play the game and conduct ourselves on the field."

And there was a fresh boost for India when they hammered Champions Trophy-holders Australia by 243 runs in a warm-up match in Cardiff on Tuesday.

Australia were bowled out for just 65 after India, who were 55 for five themselves, saw Dinesh Karthik (146 not out) and Dhoni (91) take them to 308 for six.

But India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin warned against reading too much into the extraordinary result.

"It's a practice game and it is good to get as much as you can out of it from our point of view rather than looking at what the result is," he said. "The day after tomorrow (Thursday) this does not matter and we will have to start again."


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