South African former Proteas opening batsman, Proteas coach and the World Cup Winning Indian team coach Gary Kirsten is celebrating his 50th birthday today! Today we take a look back at his cricketing career.
Gary Kirsten is a South African cricketing hero who played 101 Test matches and scored a total of 7289 runs for South Africa. He also played 185 One Day Internationals for South Africa scoring a total of 6798 ODI runs. Kirsten made his Test debut against Australia in Melbourne, Australia in 1993. Gary Kirsten earned a reputation as being a sturdy batsman in both Test cricket and One Day International cricket who would grind it out when times were tough at the crease. He often played the anchor role in the Proteas’ batting line-up. Kirsten had the ability to up the tempo of an innings if he needed to, but more often than not he simply waited patiently for the bad ball from the bowler and punished it! Gary Kirsten was the first Test batsman to score hundreds against each of the other 9 Test playing nations. Kirsten scored a record 275 runs against England when he batted for over 14 and a half hours after South Africa had to follow on at Kingsmead in Durban. This achievement still stands as the second-longest innings, in terms of duration, in Test match history. The actual highest score was later surpassed by another South African batsman, Graeme Smith when he scored 277 against England in 2003. Gary Kirsten still holds the record for highest innings score by a South African in a One Day International. He achieved this record when he scored 188 not out against the United Arab Emirates during the 1996 Cricket World Cup. Gary Kirsten retired from international cricket in 2004 after scoring a match-winning 76 runs in his final innings against New Zealand.
Gary Kirsten was appointed as the head coach of the Indian national team in December 2007. He officially started his new role as the Indian head coach in March 2008. Kirsten’s first full series as the coach of the Indian team was against his home country, South Africa in March and April 2008. The series was drawn 1–1. During his time as Coach of India, the Indian team won a home series against Australia beating them 2–0. He also coached India to their first bilateral series win in Sri Lanka against Sri Lanka. He coached India to their first Test and ODI series wins against New Zealand in New Zealand after 40 years. Gary Kirsten was praised by the Indian players for improving and enhancing their playing techniques, motivating them and discussing tactics that can be deployed on the field. Gary Kirsten is considered to be the key force behind the clearly visible performance improvement in all the Indian players. Former Indian captain M.S. Dhoni described him as “The best thing to happen to Indian cricket.” Gary Kirsten ended his time as coach by coaching India to become the 2011 Cricket World Cup Champions! India defeated Sri Lanka in the final by 6 wickets with 10 balls to spare at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, India. During the team’s on-field celebrations, Kirsten was carried around the ground on the shoulders of some of the Indian players in a show of respect.
Gary Kirsten coached the Proteas for just over two years between August 2011 and August 2013. His first decision as coach was to name AB De Villiers as the captain for the ODI squad, replacing Graeme Smith who remained as the Test squad captain. With Gary Kirsten as Head Coach the Proteas reached number 1 in the ICC Test rankings in August 2012 by defeating England 2–0. During 2012 Gary Kirsten coached the Proteas to a home series win against Sri Lanka, an away series win in New Zealand, an away series win against England, and an away series win against Australia.
Happy Birthday Gary! We hope you celebrate this milestone birthday in style! We wish you all the very best for the year ahead!