Gary Kirsten is one of the best coaches India have had, leading the team to the top of the Test rankings in 2009 and then two years later landing the biggest prize — the 50-over World Cup title. The South African replaced the controversial Greg Chappell in the hot seat in 2007 and managed to strike a balance between big stars like Sachin Tendulkar and young bloods like Virat Kohli. The current captain of the Indian team made his ODI debut in 2008, and while the former South African batsman admitted that straight away, he saw the “great abilities and talent” Virat Kohli possessed, Kirsten knew “he wasn’t operating in the best version of himself”.
Kirsten remembered an ODI series against Sri Lanka, where Kohli, after a good start, threw it away by going for a big one.
The South African recalled telling the right-hander to cut the risk out his game, if he was to take his “cricket to next level”.
“When I met Virat first up, he had great abilities and talent and he was a young guy. But I kind of knew straight away that he wasn’t operating in the best version of himself. So, we had a number of discussions,” Gary Kirsten said on the ‘The RK Show’.
“I’ll never forget one, when we were playing an ODI series against Sri Lanka, and he was batting beautifully and he was on 30-odd not out. He then decided that he would try and hit the (bowler) over long-on’s head for six. And he got holed out.
“I just said to him, ‘If you’re going to take your cricket to the next level, you need to hit that ball down the ground for one to long-on. You know you can hit a lot of balls up the ground, but there’s a lot of risk attached to that’. I think he took that on board a little bit and got a hundred in the next one in Kolkata,” Kirsten said on the chat show.
“Our relationship was formulated around him as a young player coming in, and me trying to say to him ‘listen, you might think you have got it, but you have a long way to go’ kind of vibe,” added the South African.
Kohli flourished under Kirsten’s watchful eyes, going on to become an integral part of India’s 2011 World Cup-winning team, and then pushing on to become one of the best in the world across formats.
Currently, the Indian skipper is number one in ICC ODI rankings, 2nd in Test rankings and 10th in T20I rankings. He has amassed runs all around the world, scoring 27 Test centuries and 43 ODI hundreds.
He averages 53.62 in the longest format, 59.33 in ODIs and 50.80 in the shortest format. Few even come close to the consistency the right-hander has shown in recent times, with his record in successful chases better than anyone else.
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