Cricket Find/Feedback/Site Index
March 3, 2000


India Down Under

The Rediff Interview / Gary Kirsten

send this story to a friend

'We have given ourselves a lot better chance of winning than the last time'

Gary Kristen Gary Kirsten has been South Africa's most successful opener ever since the Proteas returned to international cricket in 1991. The southpaw alongwith Andrew Hudson combined to form arguably the best opening pair in the past decade.

For his unmatched contribution to the team, Kirtsen was named deputy to Hansie Cronje until Shaun Pollock received the honour.

Half-brother of Peter Kirsten, Gary is an introvert. Although he does not hold pleasant memories of India the last time he toured the country in 1996, he believes that his team has done its homework well this time around and is confident that the results will definitely be in his country's favour.

In the last series against England, when South African were forced to follow-on for the first time since their re-entry into international cricket, it was Gary who struck timely form to score a painstaking career-best of 275 runs and keep the Englishmen on the field for almost three days.

Faisal Shariff spoke to the mainstay of South Africa's top order.

Gary this is your second visit to India, tell me what you expect out of this tour?

We have come here to win the Test series. We all know that it is going to be a tough task, but it's something that hasn't been done for a long time.

What, according to you, is the toughest part of the tour?

I think the conditions are the toughest. I think it takes a long time for people to acclimatize to the conditions. It always turns a lot. And it's not easy playing here. But once you can adjust to these conditions then it makes it a lot easier.

What are your experiences of India? I suppose they weren't pleasant because you had major problems the last time around finding mineral water?

Gary Kirsten I think it is part and parcel of touring India. If you experience it, it is not a problem. It was our first long tour to India last time and we didn't know what to expect. This time it is a lot different. We have done our homework; certainly the management has done their homework and they are making sure that things are sorted out off the field for us and then it is up to us to go and perform on the field. We are looking forward to the series and know that is going to be a tough one. But we have done our homework this time and have given ourselves a lot better chance of winning than the last time.

You have been with the team for so long, what according to you is the reason for the meteoric rise in its fortunes?

I think it is a team that works really hard. I think we initially realized that we weren't a really talented team, and we were prepared to put in a lot of hours of training and working on our skills and improving our skills. I think now the team has changed a bit. We have got three or four really good youngsters that have come through -- Boucher, Gibbs, Klusener, Kallis and Pollock. These are some good players that have joined the team over the last three or four years and they are good players, and I think we have got depth now in our team ... and good balance. That is probably the strength.

What could you attribute to the fact that the last time you played in South Africa against England, you shot back?

I think it is part and parcel of opening the batting. You are going to go through times where your form is not good and I think facing a new ball can be extremely difficult. It is not much difficult in this country because there is not much sideways movement. But I think it is part and parcel of what you are going to deal with. You don't like going through bad form.

There was a lot of controversy that there should be some kind of quota or some kind of black representation in the South African team as well. In your personal opinion do you feel that every person in the team should be on merit or there should be some allocation?

I think it is a difficult one, having gone through the years which we have gone through with the apartheid system, which is a very bad system that left the majority of the population underprivileged and underdeveloped and I just believe that it is a process that we've had to go through. Unfortunately there are people that are trying to fast track it and make it happen quicker than it should actually happen. I think it takes a long time to generate cricketing culture especially amongst black people. It might take 10 to 20 years. It is going to take a lot longer than the people think. I am pleased that the progress has been fantastic and hopefully for the years to come we will have on merit a fully mixed team.

Do you think that the development of cricket in the black dominated areas of South Africa is satisfactory?

Yes. I believe, judging from what I have seen and heard, the development structures have been very much in progress and you know, as I have said, it is a very long process. But I know a lot of money has been pumped in to development, and hopefully that will beat the odds.

As an opener how did you prepare yourself for this tour, knowing what kind of track to expect?

I have been here before so I know what to expect. I think here it is a little bit easier opening the batting at 5 or 6 when the wickets have deteriorated a little bit. But there are different conditions and I have had good experiences in the past, and hopefully I will continue that trend.

But doesn't something need to be done for South Africa to be the number one side in the world, and to do that it has to win in the sub-continent also?

Yes, I would hope so. I think what can be done is to prepare wickets that are conducive to spin. But that's a lot easier said than done. I think around the world you need to change; I mean in India you need to prepare some wickets that are conducive to pace bowling. I believe in standardization of wickets so that when you go to other countries it is not a big advantage playing at home. The wickets must be a little standardized so that each player is tested according to his skill against different bowlers. And they have got to be able to face pace, and they have got to be able to face spin, and you have got to be able to do that all in one game. So wickets have to be standardized so that all bowlers and all batsman come into the game.

Which bowler do you reckon will be the toughest to face?

Gary Kirsten I think the Indian attack is a good attack. Srinath and Agarkar have proved themselves that they are good fast bowlers; Srinath certainly has over the years; And Kumble is a great spinner; he has a great record to go with it.

There are always a lot of youngsters coming through from the spin department that can provide problems and we have a lot of respect for the Indian attack. It is a question of treating them with respect and just thinking what you can do in your own innings.

How much did your half-brother Peter encourage you?

Peter is a lot older than me and has been playing first class cricket for a lot longer before I started playing, and it was within the family that cricket was a part of our life. We were doing other things and other sports. So it is just part of our culture. We are four brothers in the family and we all took up cricket. I am the only one playing now but it is just part of the culture.

What kind of relationship do you share with Peter?

I have a very good relationship with him. We are very good friends, we see each other quite a bit. We live very close to each other and he still acts as an advisor to me in times of need. He is the coach of one of the provincial teams in South Africa and his knowledge of the game is huge and I use him whenever I can.

Gary, how much do you think you have changed since the last time and now as a cricketer and person?

Well, apart from getting married, I've not changed. Obviously, I've played three more years and this is my seventh year in the international team. I have enjoyed the time and just hope that I can continue to perform and play for a few more years.

The Gary Kirsten interview continues:
'I believe that if the technology is available why not use it'