Battle of world’s best coach and captain
Colombo: India take on South Africa Tuesday in a crucial Super Eight match of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 at the Premadasa Stadium.
The match is also a battle between India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is hailed as the most successful captain in world cricket and Gary Kirsten, the coach of the South African team, who is one of the best cricket coaches in the planet.
Dhoni admits he has great respect for the South African team.
“If you see their bowling line-up, it looks very complete with fast bowlers, Jacques Kallis and a few spinners. At the same time, they have got batsmen who can really score runs at a good pace right from A.B. [de Villiers], to Kallis to [Hashim] Amla to J.P. Duminy. They are a very good side. But in this format you have to click as a team, or if you have someone like Chris Gayle in your side, then he needs to click on his own to win games. Otherwise you have to click as a team. Somebody scores 40-50 odd runs and the rest play cameos of 10, 12 or 15 runs in four or five deliveries, which really helps the team to win,” he said.
Following India’s win over Pakistan on Sunday, Dhoni and his boys are looking confident. When asked whether he may become the first captain to win three World Cups having led India to victories in the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup and the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni said: “I have always said I like to live in the present. Winning the World Cup is a long way away because our first priority is to qualify for the next phase for which is a must-win in the next game. We should not look too far ahead. We need to focus on the next two games and the preparations we need ahead of the next match. After that, lottery cricket will begin in the knockout stages. If someone bats well or bowls well, if you have the lottery ticket, then you can win.”
Gary Kirsten, who was the coach of Dhoni and India when they won the 2011 World Cup, will be masterminding the South African team today. So the obvious question for Kirsten was whether he would utilise the knowledge of all the weaknesses of the Indian players for South Africa’s benefit?
“I think there is enough information out there for every player to be analysed at length,” he said.
“There is enough information on television and there is the IPL. I don’t think we have anything unique [about the Indian players] to offer the South African players, as they play with these [Indian] players a lot. The focus of our attention is not on them; the focus of our attention is that we play well, about what we need to do well in the next game.”
When asked why South Africa have not been playing to their full potential, Kirsten said: “We need to make good decisions. In both the games recently, we were trying to win and then we let it slip. When the South African team was announced, everyone said it is a well-balanced team and it has a good chance of winning this event. But we haven’t played well enough in the key moments of the game. We had Pakistan for 60 for 7, so we should have won that game. It has been disappointing. I think we have made a lot of progress, though. We had tough batting situations in which we lost three wickets very early, but in both those games we batted deep and well to get to a good competitive total. I thought in the second game, 150 was a par score and we got 146, and that is really encouraging. It is a bit disappointing that we had opportunities to close a game out and we didn’t do that.”
Kirsten then went on to praise India’s talisman Virat Kohli.
“He is a great player and we have always known that. He is probably one of the stand-out batsmen in the world at the moment and we all know what he is capable of doing. He is one of those x-factor cricketers that other teams want to get out because he is not going to get out himself and you got to get him out. He doesn’t throw his wicket away. I am pleased for Virat; he has worked hard on his game and he is showing that he is one of the premier batsmen in the world at the moment.”