Mumbai: India's outgoing coach Gary Kirsten on Tuesday bid an emotional farewell after his three-year tenure as India's cricket coach, saying it was one of the hardest goodbyes he has ever said.
"I am glad that I am leaving the team in a healthy state, but this is one of the hardest goodbyes I have had to say," Kirsten told reporters at the Cricket Centre in Wankhede.
Kirsten, who leaves for South Africa on Tuesday night, praised legend Sachin Tendulkar for his friendship.
"Tonight, I leave with my wife to return to South Africa. To Sachin (Tendulkar), I want to say thank you for your friendship. You are the greatest sporting role model I have ever met," he said. (Watch)
"It has been an honour to work with him over the last three years and I want to thank him for his support," he added.
Kirsten also extended a heartfelt thanks to the support staff and the cricket team.
"I thank everyone who gave me this unique opportunity and privilege to be part of this incredible country," he said.
Speaking about the World Cup victory, Kirsten said that he would have loved to win the Cup as a player.
"However, I did use my reference point as a player. But we were not in it for personal glory," he said.
"It was tough for a new coach as the Indian team had set high standards for themselves. But, as a new coach, it was important for me to bring some freshness of ideas in such a way that the players responded positively and I surprised myself," he said.
Lauding the Indian team, Kirsten spoke about the strengths of each member of the team.
"Virat is ready for test cricket. Ishant had a tough year, but he can be a future star player. I enjoyed working with Raina and I am excited about the young (Cheteshwar) Pujara. Indian cricket in a healthy position," he said.
Kirsten also said that he was very happy with Munaf Patel and that Zaheer Khan is the best bowler in the world and that he is extremely proud of Yuvraj Singh.
"Team India has unbelievable bowlers to left handers," he said. "I loved working one on one with players. I believe Dhoni is the best captain in the world. He leads by example and expects his troops to be ready for the battle. I have never seen him lose his temper. He is one of the greatest leaders of the country," Kirsten said.
"We achieved both our goals to be the World Champions and the number one Test side. The way the players handled the weight of expectations of the entire country was remarkable," he said.