Late last year, Gary Kirsten was in Jaipur on a coaching assignment. At a press conference, the former India coach was sure that he would be asked the MS Dhoni question. “I did think it would go to that,” Kirsten had muttered. It was like the South African was a tad surprised that the inevitable question had taken this long to surface.
The answer was one that Kirsten seemed to have rehearsed not just prior to this particular press conference a couple of months ago but for a few years since calling it a day as India’s head coach. “That’s a question I get asked the most every time I come to India. My answer hasn’t changed in three years,” he said.
“If anyone doubts his ability, I think they would be making a grave mistake. You replace MS Dhoni at your peril,” he continued, making it sound like nothing short of a warning. Kirsten was, after all, both the best and the worst person to quiz about how long Dhoni had left at the helm of affairs. In addition to his own pedigree as player and coach, he also shared a strong and symbiotic bond with Dhoni during his time with the Indian team.
A bond that helped both individuals grow in their respective roles. But Kirsten is someone who always came down hard upon anyone doubting Dhoni’s credentials to continue leading the side. Dhoni’s, after all, someone about whom the former South African opener once said: “I would go to war with this guy by my side.”
So it was understandable that Kirsten was asked the question. as always, he didn’t mince any words while throwing his support behind his former partner-in-crime.
“The experience I have had is that all great leaders have great performances until the end of their careers. Till the end. So if you’re willing to let MS Dhoni go, and you know that he might have potentially a great World Cup performance left in him, then you take the risk of that,” he added.