Johannesburg, Aug 20: The man who took India to on top of the world, former coach Gary Kirtsen says that he is a disappointed that India lost their Test No. 1 status in such an emphatic way, but that the team he guided for three years is still a crack unit.
Speaking to a leading cricket website, Kirsten said, "It's always difficult to understand why teams ebb and flow and often it's the intangibles that make the difference."
While India' fall from grace on the current tour of England is being attributed to a gamut of reasons, including a lack of planning and a lack of tenacity, drive and aggression, Kirsten offers that the newly assumed malaise may come down to the plain fact that the team is transitioning between coaches and the whole culture and rapport that comes along with a change of guide. "When a new coach comes in its important that he follows on with the culture of the team," Kirsten said.
Kirsten played the role of a very hands-on, malleable, modern coach who exuded the charisma and drive to be involved with his players. He inculcated in them a work ethic which he demonstrated virtually by example and his accessibility made the team see him as one of them. One needs to be patient in deciphering whether present coach Duncan Fletcher is received by his wards in the same way and at any rate Kirsten admitted that his own act might be a hard one to follow. "It's not easy to continue a run of success," he said.
Kirsten was honest in summarising the strengths of the team saying, "They are a great cricket team, with a great captain and one of the best batting line-ups in the world which is why they were No. 1. But we always knew that we were bit short on the bowling side and that was something that we learnt to manage."
India's most experienced bowlers have dropped out of the ongoing tour in succession with Zaheer's hamstring leading into Harbhajan's poor-form-induced muscle tear to Praveen's ankle injury, causing India to limp from one crisis to the next. Meanwhile, the batting in playing as a frail and disappointing unit, may at last be indicating that it chief performers are passing their prime.
"People said that with such an experienced team we should try to integrate youth but I felt that for as long as those experienced guys were there and they were enjoying it and playing good cricket, they should carry on," Kirsten offered.
It's in the shorter format of the game that Kirsten thinks India can revive their fortunes on this tour, especially after their World Cup triumph. "I hope they have a good one-day series.
Quite simply, what goes up must come down and India is perhaps on the downward slope. But if they want to stay on top then they have to find a way to redeem themselves and that would require a cohesion of youth and experience.