Gary Kirsten on his strategy to get India to #1

India Coach Gary Kirsten
India Coach Gary Kirsten

I caught up with my partners Gary Kirsten & Paddy Upton last night on the eve of their historic win over South Africa yesterday. The game confirmed India’s position as the top cricket test playing nation. I wanted to pick their brains on strategy.

Dale Williams
You’ve now been with Indian cricket for two years, what has your strategy been?

Gary Kirsten & Paddy Upton:
Gary had good ideas on cricket strategy, which he presented at our first meeting with the Indian team two years ago. It “did not land”. Indians saw things differently, and we felt stuck before we started.

So we asked the team, who had about a 50% win ratio, what had  worked for them in terms of preparation and on-field performance. We collated ‘what’s already working’ to become the initial TEAM strategy, which the players found agreeable.

Our COACHING strategy was then to build relationships and trust, to get to know players and understand the Indian way. We asked questions and listened more than speaking, enquiring about players’ families, their past and the things that were important to them. Only with their trust could we have any influence.

DW
Did you set out to be #1?

GK & PU
The team goal was to become the best team in the world, which we referred to seldom. The focus remained on the things we needed to do on a daily basis to get us there.

Key factors included ‘studying the whole book for the exam’ or, leaving no stone unturned in our preparation, having a good dressing-room atmosphere, focusing on what was going well and on solutions.

Players were encouraged to express themselves their way, in an environment that was void of criticism or punishment. Low performances were almost never addressed on the day when emotions were inevitably high, but were discussed in a calm learning environment after the game. Meetings were few and short, and we did things other differently to what is typical in the world of cricket.

Difficult decisions were often made collaboratively.

DW
Where to from here?

GK&PU
Since realising our goal of becoming No 1, we continue to affirm the things that we did to get us there, and continue to ask “what more can we do?”

Every team we play against is plotting our downfall, so our thinking needs to stay ahead of theirs.  Going forward, we have the 2011 World Cup in our sights, which gives us nearly twelve months to prepare to win.

Author: Dale Williams

Dale is based in Cape Town on the southern tip of Africa from where he maintains connections with people all over the world through his portfolio life.