Mumbai:Indian coach Gary Kirsten has likened the country's ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's ability to extract the most out of his players to that of late Hansie Cronje, under whom the former South African opener had played in international cricket.
Kirsten felt Anil Kumble, the Bangalore stalwart who leads India in Tests commanded great respect from his team, but the swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman from Ranchi was more charismatic as he could get the best out of his team.
"Anil Kumble commands great respect from his team. He is a performer of note and has done it for many, many years. He is a tremendous person and brings in his personal qualities to the job", Kirsten has told www.cricketnirvana.com in an interview.
"Someone like Dhoni is more charismatic. He just backs himself and completely believes in his ability. He has got an unbelievable knack of getting the players under him to feel the same. He has the ability to get the best out of his players. That's a great quality, which I was fortunate to have under Hansie Cronje," Kirsten said.
Tendulkar eyeing 50 Test hundreds
Kirsten said that after his recent interaction with Sachin Tendulkar, against whom he had played a lot of cricket, he felt that the champion batsman was enjoying his game more than ever before and also perhaps eyeing a half century of three-figure knocks in Test cricket (Presently he has 39 to his credit).
"I asked him (Tendulkar) about the whole retirement thing. He is eyeing, may be, 50 Test 100s. It's a long way to go for him, 11 more to go. It could take him 11 Tests or 25-30 Tests to achieve that - who knows. But the important thing is that he is enjoying his game now, more than ever and wants to keep playing," the Indian coach said.
On his experience of working with the master batman, Kirsten said Tendulkar was an exceptional player still willing to learn and improve his game like any other champion of the sport.
"We know Sachin is an exceptional player. I remember playing much cricket against him. It was quite enjoyable watching him bat, even when we were trying to get him out. There is nothing much you can do about his game technically. He is very clever about his game and understands it well. It will be a real privilege to work with a great player like him," he said.
"But like any other champion of the sport, he is still willing to learn and improve his game. I haven't seen an individual who really wants to perform every time he walks onto the field and let's not forget the expectations he carries on his shoulders. He is a very humble man who respects the game. He is a fantastic team man," Kirsten added.
'Quitting cricket a difficult decision'
Quitting the game one loved, was the most difficult decision to take for a player, according to the former Test cricketer who, when he retired at 37, felt physically he could have played for three more years but was mentally drained.
"I think retirement is always tough. You never know which is the right time to retire. I had wanted to retire for quite sometime. I realised I wasn't playing to my potential, and it was just being street-wise that allowed me to remain competitive," he said.
"Ironically, though, I played my best Test in my last year, that was largely due to experience. Retirement is a tough call for any cricketer to make, because he could be on top of his game and might think why shouldn't I just keep going. I retired at the age of 37, but I reckon that physically I could have played for three more years. Mentally, though, you start wearing out," Kirsten said.
'Match-fixing a sad point'
Recalling cricket's darkest chapter -- the match-fixing saga -- Kirsten said it was a very sad point of his career, and at the height of it when his then captain Cronje, who later died in a plane crash, was in the thick of it he was unaware of the murkier goings-on as his deputy.
"Match-fixing was a very sad point in my career, something that we had to deal with as a South African team. It wasn't easy, especially having a captain who was heavily involved in it and as a vice-captain, I was completely unaware of what was going on," he said.
"But suddenly being labeled as a match-fixer, when I was standing on the boundary, was a bitter pill to swallow for many years," Kirsten rued and hoped that with the arrival of the Indian Premier League players won't be tempted again to go down that dangerous lane.
"Hopefully, it has been put to bed, though, I don't think that underground betting will ever cease to exist. Nevertheless, I hope that the players have seen the light and perhaps with IPL, where they are being paid decent amounts, they won't be tempted in that fashion," he said.
He also welcomed the IPL and felt it would add a new dimension to the willow game.
"I think IPL is a tremendous concept for cricket. The game needs to bring in a new dimension to it. IPL will make its presence felt and I don't think that Test cricket will lose its status," he said optimistically.