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'Hardik has ticked all the boxes as captain'

May 06, 2022 09:24 IST
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'Hardik has done very well and I have been impressed by his leadership.'
'His approach is in line with a modern-style of leadership which is collaborative.'

IMAGE: Gujarat Titans Mentor and Batting Coach Gary Kirsten with Captain Hardik Pandya. Photograph: BCCI

Gary Kirsten enjoys a special status in India. After all, he coached the national team to the 2011 World Cup title and No 1 ranking in Test cricket during his four-year tenure.

The former South Africa opener is a rare coach who is happy to be behind the scenes and not go shouting around town about his or the team's achievements.

It has been 10 years since Kirsten quit the India job, but it seems he has still lost none of his magic as coach.

Back in the IPL after three years, Kirsten's guidance seems to be paying off for debutants Gujarat Titans who are atop the IPL 2022 points table with eight wins from 10 games.

"One thing I have enjoyed is coming in with a fresh start. We, as a coaching group, have been allowed to formulate our best thinking around the playing group without any history in that. That has been a big help," Kirsten tells's Harish Kotian.

It has been a dream debut for Gujarat Titans, winning eight out of its first 10 games to top the points table and look all set to make the play-offs in their first season in the IPL.
How big is that achievement for a new team, especially considering that there were 10 teams this year?

I think the big auction has really levelled the teams out a little bit. It is not as if you are coming into the tournament with eight fully established teams and two brand new ones.

Having said that, starting everything new is an achievement because we have a new captain, new coaching staff and a new set of players -- to get the wheels turning and finding the balance for the team was a great effort.

The coaching staff deserves a lot of plaudits because getting the players ready so quickly for the grind of the IPL is not an easy task.
Can you tell us what went into getting the team ready so fast because Gujarat Titans only had a couple of months in hand to put everything into place before the start of IPL?

(Gujarat Titans Director of Cricket) Vikram (Solanki) and (Head Coach) Ashish (Nehra) played a huge role in putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, obviously with the challenges of players arriving late and trying to make sure in a short space of time, we got ourselves connected as a group.

For that, I think the pre-season camp in Ahmedabad was very important. We had great facilities there and we had a good amount of time to start building the kind of connections you need to have as a group.

Both Vikram and Ashish were great and did a lot to make sure that the wheels turn like they needed to turn.

IMAGE: Gujarat Titans are atop the IPL 2022 standings with eight wins from 10 games. Photograph: BCCI

Run chases seem to bring out the best of Gujarat Titans. What has caught everyone's attention has been their never-say-die attitude.
Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan have played a couple of key cameos to help steal victories from unlikely positions, while the experienced David Miller also played a special knock in a tough run chase against CSK.
It must be a happy feeling for the coaches when the players keep so cool under pressure in tough run chases. What is generally spoken during team meetings to keep the pressure off the players?

The thing that I have enjoyed the most about performances so far is that there have been many different contributions. Someone told me the other day that we had seven different Player of the Match award winners in our victories.

I enjoy the fact that there have been different impact players in different games, with bat and ball. Whilst one can identify key moments that got us across the line, I think that probably comes with experience.

Certainly Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan and David Miller stand out as guys that have got good experience in those middle overs in managing the situations really well. That has been very helpful.

It makes a big difference when you have players who understand how to manage such situations and have got good thinking around it.

Rashid Khan is a special player in T20 cricket. He has made a big impact for Gujarat Titans this season, winning a couple of matches with bat and ball.

We all know what Rashid is capable of with the ball. He is really hard on himself in terms of his performances with the ball as that is his core activity.

What I have been most excited by is that he has made two big impacts with the bat so far this season. This is my first season working with him and I just know how much effort he puts practicing his batting. He hits a lot of balls and he enjoys batting.

We have certainly tried to create an environment where he can hit as many balls as he wants to get his swing going and go into the match, ready to make the contribution he wants.

You have had coaching stints with two IPL teams before. How different an experience is it coaching a completely new franchise like Gujarat Titans? What is your role as mentor of Gujarat Titans?

One thing I have enjoyed is coming in with a fresh start. We as a coaching group have been allowed to formulate our best thinking around the playing group without any history in that. That has been a big help.

What I have enjoyed is being with a great coaching group. We had one season together with RCB which didn't go as well as we would have liked to although we ended the season well. It was great to keep the coaching group together and to be able to work together.

Results come and go, but working with good people lasts for a long time.

Hardik Pandya was under a lot of scrutiny coming into the IPL with regards to his fitness and his bowling. He seems to have ticked all the right boxes in the IPL, scoring 300-plus runs in seven matches at a strike rate of 137, while he bowled full tilt whenever he came into bowl and also picked up four wickets.
His captaincy has also been top notch, making all the right calls under pressure.
How do you rate his performances in the IPL so far as a captain and a player?

Hardik has done very well. I have been impressed by his leadership. I think his approach is in line with a modern-style of leadership which is collaborative.

Hardik endears people to him, which takes pressure off players yet he stands tall with his performances. He has ticked all the boxes from a captaincy perspective. He's had some great success and hopefully that continues.

As a batter, I have seen him bat with very few balls left to face in previous IPLs. Just to see his quality as a batter when he has got time has been great. He has been a massive asset as a bowler as well.

IMAGE: Gujarat Titans fast bowler Mohammed Shami celebrates a wicket during IPL 2022. Photograph: BCCI

Mohammed Shami is another player who has made a mark in IPL 2022, with some fantastic performances with the ball. He faced a lot of flak during India's early exit from the T20 World Cup last year but he has been sensational with the new ball for Gujarat Titans. How important has his contribution been?

Shami's impact in the Powerplay has been massive. We currently rank No.1 in wickets taken in the Powerplay and we all know how important that is. He has had a big impact on that.

His accuracy and his Test-match lengths are very important at the time, with good speed. He has brought great value to the team and has always bowled one good over at the back end of the innings.

How has coaching evolved in the last 10-12 years, say from the time you took up the coaching role with the Indian team. Has T20 cricket changed the way coaches operate nowadays?

I think T20 cricket has created a different style of coaching -- it's a lot more scientific. It requires very strategic recruitment and balancing a team out.

When you are picking an international team, you are picking your eleven best players. (In the IPL) You don't get access to all the best players so you have to make sure that you get the balance of your team right with the skills you are looking for.

Thus, strategically you are really involved in the coaching space, in matches with a lot of communication going on and off the field for the coaches.

You are very much a part of the strategic play of the team more than any other format. I think it has made coaching exciting.

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