The Man in the background – and why we need him in focus …


The following piece – penned by Rohit Brijnath – appeared this morning in Tabla.

The question it asks is one that we should ask in the good times. If this is the wind beneath the team’s wings, what can we learn from it. Too often, we’ll wait for the bad spell before casting blame.

Also, is this all Gary K’s doing ? Or are the BCCI gag orders responsible. Does it matter, either way.

Read on.

Gary Kirsten is apparently the coach of the Indian cricket team. This is sometimes hard to tell. Certainly he is hardly to be seen in the newspapers, a fellow more low profile than a sulking mole. This is not altogether unpleasant for the last fellow in the job had yet to meet a microphone he didn’t like. Greg Chappell talked too much, Kirsten seems to talk not at all.

It might be argued that Kirsten’s job is not to talk anyway but to teach. Certainly John Wright could be a recluse, but in front of Kirsten he resembles a campaigning politician. Kirsten has learnt from Chappell’s error, that the spotlight belongs to the player not the coach, but this low-profile act, probably not of his making entirely, has gone too far.

Since the team is winning we presume Kirsten is having a fine effect. We must presume because there has been no major profile worth remembering, containing Kirsten’s thoughts, in an Indian paper (though, unusually, there was one in an English paper last year). Certainly the team is a choir singing his praises, but otherwise he’s as familiar to us as a blind date.

How does he cajole Sehwag and cool down Bhajji? What ideas are propelling this team? What areas does the team need to sandpaper? How do they balance the three teams? Questions abound. One of India’s finest commentators, says simply: “I don’t know anything about what he thinks.”

Is this bad? Well, it’s not a national crisis, not reason for chest-beating or office-burning, but let’s say this much. What Kirsten is doing, Indians especially deserve to know. Fans have the right to be part of this journey, they invest in their team, they might want to understand the mechanics of their team’s tilt at greatness, might like to know the man running their team. It’s not their right to know everything, but enough.

If Kirsten prefers not to speak, it’s a shame (though this is unlikely since he was blogging till told to stop). More likely, Kirsten is not being allowed to speak by the BCCI and that’s silly. A gag, if it exists, is an overreaction to Chappell and fails to recognise the obvious truth that no two men are the same. It is also immature. As if to say, we can trust a man to guide India’s precious team, but we can’t trust him not to be indiscreet.

Coaches can be engaging customers, whose creative enthusiasm allows us to keep looking at cricket differently. The late Bob Woolmer was full of original thought; the professorial John Buchanan is never shy of speaking. Sport needs ideas in the public domain, it makes for more interesting discourse.

Undoubtedly, the predatory part of India’s media pointlessly spins controversy from even a banal quote, and some wariness is warranted. But Wright gave strong, sensible interviews occasionally, one particularly famous one to Sambit Bal of Cricinfo in 2002, giving us an insight into his self and his mission.

Kirsten should tell the board he is smart enough to pick his words and his journalists. He should reveal parts of himself, tell us what he thinks about Indian cricket, let people look into his lined face and make up their minds, instead of emailing answers to India Today’s Sharda Ugra, whose intelligent enquiring questions were recently met by stilted, bland answers.

The fine, intelligent coach at work with this team, it would be nice to know him a little. As requests go, it hardly sounds unreasonable.

Thoughts welcome.


14 thoughts on “The Man in the background – and why we need him in focus …

  1. I personally prefer a low-profile coach. That way we are spared the management mumbo jumbo plus the inanities that parades as wisdom.

    The coach at least in cricket is a glorified twelfth man.

  2. I agree with the post above……Gary Kirsten seems like a low profile, quiet guy and maybe we should let him be that way…….concentrate on the job, and help Team India win!

  3. It’s quite interesting article from Rohit Brijnath. I have read all his articles that appeared in Sportstar and India Today in my school and college days. He usually writes only about issues that matter.

    Kirsten is doing a job that he is supposed to do quietly. Even when he was a player, he was never a one made for limelight. So I guess it’s his personality. Now, if people want to question him, he will say his answers are their on the cricket ground. It’s hard to argue that one.

    I think, It’s one thing to be curious about one’s methods, all together different to demand an explanation for one’s coaching philosophy.

  4. Hi Ottayan and Parashar,

    I’m a bit confused about what “low profile” means – I mean I can tell that Greg Chappell was NOT low profile but between John Wright, John Buchanan and Gary Kirsten, I think the definition gets a bit hazy.

    As of date, on his site here, Gary Kirsten says the following –

    Note to all members
    You may be wondering why the web site has not been updated. We have been asked by the BCCI not to post match comments or columns. We are in discussions with the BCCI and will revert to you as soon as we get clarity. We will let all subscribers to our newsletter know the outcome of our discussions. Subsribe to the newsletter in order to stay abreast of happenings.

    Kind regards


    Prior to this he was posting – exclusively for visitors to his site – a series of post and pre-match comments about Team India along with Paddy Upton…

    I agree with “concentrating on his job” but at the moment it seems more about gag orders by the BCCI than Gary Kirsten’s “low profile” …


  5. Hi there Yogesh,

    I could well argue this the other way around – its one thing to stop someone from using a position of power for personal use (like Gary K posting things exclusively on his site), but its quite another to “demand” that he completely shut up and / or only post things which are (and I am guessing here on the basis of the email responses to Sharda Ugra) “vetted” or “vettable (?)” …

    What are the odds that we’ll get an autobiography about his experiences in India from Gary K after his stint ? Besides, like i mentioned to Ottayan and Parashar, its not like he doesnt want to do it online …

    I just worry about our feelings during good and winning times and am not sure that the let-it-be attitudes stay when the winds change shifts…


  6. Sfx,

    I have a different take on this. Maybe Kirsten isn’t saying much because he has nothing much to say? Maybe what he has been doing is good man management which maynot be expressed as a ‘process’. He has a bowling coach, a fielding coach and a psychiatrist with him. He has already said that he has asked players not to over analyze ala their approcah to Mendis. So there doesn’t seem to be a huge focus on specific strategies for opposition players as well. Are we trying to find answers where there are none?


  7. Hi sfx, After reading the statement on GK’s website posted here, I kinda get what you are saying. Forcing him to keep quiet is baffling. GK is not responsible for what GC did to Indian cricket team. I hope that BCCI have a balanced view on this and they let GK to be more open towards press.

    hi Rahul, There is a point in what you said. Isn’t simplicity the hardest thing to do? Simple man management is surely very tough thing to do.

  8. Yogesh,

    It is! But my point was we are getting stuck in this ‘process for success’ mantra and believe that all results have a tangible ’cause’ behind them. SO why not leave the guy alone 😉

  9. Hi Rahul,

    Your take is to let it as it is and sfx says it’s important to know what exactly is going on so that when things go wrong, we may know what was cause.

    Although I can imagine your thoughts on this, I think I agree with sfx on this.

    Cheers !

  10. I usually dislike the BCCI for their authoritarian rules but in this case, if there’s a gag order, it’s been the best thing ever. Almost no controversy (related to the national team) since the Sydney fiasco, and look at how well the team has performed.
    The media, especially in India, will inevitably create ridiculous controversy and speculation about anything the coach says, so why feed this beast? Better to let the headlines be about the team’s victories and top players than the coach.

  11. Rahul….i agree with u. This whole concept of pre & post match conference etc has only resulted in too much foucs and pressure on the players. Gag order or not i would rather the coach and team members make comments like the RBI governor Jalan used to make when he was in charge. That way the team does not have to worry about getting distracted by the exaggerated analysis of every minute comment. Most importantly its working well and its best if the team members who go for the press conference are also given some kind of guildelines so that they dont say much. I have no problems with this. While it might be authortarian its probably one of the wiser directives from the board.

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