November 23, 1967, Cape Town, Cape Province
Left hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Rondebosch BHS; University of Cape Town
Gary Kirsten was never blessed with the flair and the almost pure technique of his half-brother Peter, but his discipline, temperament and his penchant for hard work stood during his days as a batsman, when he became so established at the top of the South African batting order that it's almost impossible to think how they would cope without him. Then, all those virtues brought him rich rewards after his playing days too, as he became one of the most successful and popular coaches of India. The side went to the top of the Test rankings during his stint, which ended, quite fittingly, with India's World Cup triumph in 2011.
As a batsman, what stood out was his determination, the ability to concentrate for long periods and a burning desire to score runs. A left-hander with a relatively unique technique, Kirsten simply worked out his strengths and weaknesses and based his game around them. In this respect he was one of the most organised batsman to play for South Africa since their readmission. Calm and level-headed, he brought a healthy degree of common sense to the art of batting, which possibly explains why off the field and in the dressing room the dafter side of his personality came out. Periodically, Kirsten endured patches when he persistently got out in similar fashion - chopping the ball on to his stumps, for instance, or getting himself caught down the leg side.
Each time this happened, though, Kirsten worked through the problem, made the adjustments and played himself back into form. He enjoyed particular success on the subcontinent - where other players have floundered against the turning ball. Kirsten, though, was drawn on patience and soft hands to see him through. And if there was any player likely to score a big hundred, then it was Kirsten. His best of 275, a result of batting for over 14 and a half hours as South Africa followed on against England at Kingsmead in 1999-00, was the second-longest in Test history. He then returned to haunt England in 2003 and gutsed out a crucial 130 in the Headingley Test, which South Africa won by 191 runs. His good form in that series persuaded him to postpone his retirement until the end of the New Zealand tour in 2003-04.
Fittingly, he scored a century in the first Test of that series - his 99th - and scored a typically gritty 76 in his final game to help South Africa tie the series. After retiring, he spent some time with the Warriors as a consultant batting coach and, in 2006, set up his own academy in Cape Town. In December 2007, he signed up as coach of India, and his quiet and low-profile approach to the job was appreciated by current and past players. After coaching India to No. 1 in Test cricket and World Cup success in 2011, Kirsten moved on to see if he could repeat the magic with his home country. While the global title didn't come, he did firmly establish South Africa as the No. 1 team in Tests. The highlights of his time with them were away series wins against England and then Australia in the latter half of 2012, results which helped South Africa to the top of the rankings. He stood down as South Africa coach in July 2013 and, a couple of months later, was named coach of the IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils.
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