'One of the best coaches'
While the whole country is clamouring for Team India to win the World Cup for master batsman Sachin Tendulkar, one cannot forget the contribution of Gary Kirsten, who will quit as coach after the mega-event.
The South African transformed the Indian team since taking over as coach in March 2008 and took it to the top of the ICC Test rankings. The team is now a step away from winning the World Cup, which will also perch them atop the ICC ODI rankings.
The players regard Kirsten as one of the best coaches they have played under; his motivation and man-management skills have seen him blend youth and experience into a winning combination.
Former India captain Rahul Dravid says he will not forget the number of balls Kirsten threw at him in the nets, while Harbhajan Singh says the former South Africa opener made the team believe that they can win from any position, be it in Tests or ODIs.
Harish Kotian caught up with a few players from the Indian team ahead of the World Cup final, Kirsten's last and most important assignment to date.
Image: Gary Kirsten
'He made us the No 1 team in the world'
I will remember Kirsten as the best coach I have ever played under. He is a best friend too and always there to help me. He is a very hard-working guy and gives 100 per cent every time.
There are a lot of memories about Gary. He has been a great support to the team and whatever we have achieved; he is the man behind all the success.
He doesn't like to hog the limelight for our achievements, but he is the guy who made us believe that we can win, and win anywhere. He made us the number one team in the world.
Image: Gary Kirsten
'Key man in our successful run'
He is the key man in our successful run in the last two years. Under him we won a lot of Test and ODI series outside the country. If you check the rankings, we are number one in Tests and number two in ODIs. So that proves what a good coach he is.
Kirsten always takes positives from a situation; he never likes to talk about negatives. And whenever anyone has a problem, he is always ready with a solution.
The most important thing he has told the young players is that when you become a great player, you must know how to handle your personal life and fame. 'You must definitely become a better player, but you must also become a good human being,' he says.
I will definitely miss Gary and I am sure the whole team will miss him. He was like a guardian for the whole team; one of the greatest coaches India has ever had.
Image: Gary Kirsten and Sachin Tendulkar
'I hope he will change his decision'
I think Gary has really changed the way we think; he is a great man manager. A great human being too, he has played over 100 Tests and that shows what a top cricketer he was.
Personally, he helped me a lot, even when I was playing county cricket. He was constantly in touch with Allan Donald [at Warwickshire], making me realise how important I am for the team and how I should work further ahead. I really thank Gary Sir for that.
I believe he is one of the best coaches I have worked under. I rate him very high.
I wish him the very best for his life and career after the World Cup. I am sad to see him go, but there are certain things that are not in your control. After a few years with the Indian team, he has decided to give time to his family, so you can't blame him.
I sincerely hope that he will change his decision and stay as the coach for a few more years.
For me, he understands the Indian culture better; that is one of the main reasons why he was successful.
He made us kings! When he was playing he was the king, and when he became coach he became king maker. Under him we have achieved so much; we are No. 1 in Tests and No. 2 in ODIs. That shows how successful he was as the coach.
His mantra was simple: Be yourself!
Image: S Sreesanth
'Gary always takes positives from a situation'
Gary Kirsten has been outstanding, because we have achieved so much under his coaching. We became the number one team in Tests and the number two team in ODIs, so we have made a lot of progress under him.
He works very hard, and with dedication; that is why we see the results. The players are also very comfortable with him, because he is very approachable.
He was very outstanding and was the key man in our successful run in the last two years. Under him we won a lot of Test and ODI series outside the country. That proves what a good coach he is.
He always takes positives from a situation, he never likes to talk about negatives. And, whenever anyone has a problem, Gary is always ready with a solution.
And, most important, he has told the young players that when you become a great player, you must know how to handle your personal life and fame. 'You must definitely become a better player, but you must also become a good human being' he says.
I will definitely miss Gary, and I am sure the whole team will miss him.
Image: Gary Kirsten with Indian cricket team
'He and Paddy Upton formed a very good team'
I think Gary has made a very important contribution to the Indian team. He is someone who has come in and worked really hard. That sort of galavanised the guys and pushed them to work hard themselves.
He and Paddy Upton formed a very good team. They have been able to work with a lot of players and understand a lot of players and the results have shown.
He is well-liked and well-respected. For a lot of senior players, I think he is not really a coach, but like having a friend in some ways.
Gary has come in and created a good environment, which has helped the boys to express themselves and be able to play their game. The team started to do well and he has been able to build a lot of confidence in the guys and the team has responded to him; even the senior players have taken on the responsibility.
I enjoyed working with Gary. More than looking at Gary as a coach, he has been a good friend and I have enjoyed conversations outside of cricket more than the conversations on the game. He has been able to challenge me intellectually as well apart from the cricket side of things.
Just the number of balls he has thrown (in the nets)... that memory will stay with me forever.
Image: Gary Kirsten and Rahul Dravid