Even as India reel under the pressure of a 0-1 deficit after the loss at Lord's in the opening Test to England, they have some words of solace from their World Cup-winning coach Gary Kirsten, who believes Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co are more than capable of making a comeback in the four-Test series.
MiD DAY spoke to the former opening batsman, and now coach of the South African team, here in his hometown.
Do you think England can snatch the World No 1 tag from India?
India have a lot of pride at stake here. They've become the No 1 team in the world after putting in a lot of hard work. I must admit that I'm not following the series closely, but I won't be surprised if India bounce back in the next Test and stage a comeback in the series. This Indian team is more than capable of doing that, after all they are the best team in the world.
From a foreign set-up (in India) you now head into a more familiar South African set-up with former teammate Allan Donald to assist you in coaching duties. You think you will be more comfortable and as successful here?
Firstly, I never applied for this job (SA coach). It just happened. So there was obviously no planning involved. Secondly, for me, it's never been about the coaching staff. It's always been about the players. It's the players, who make the assignment what it is. And it's been a privilege and honour for me to share the dressing room with some high-performance players like Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni, and others. South Africa too is a high-performance team, so I'm sure it will be a great experience with them too.
Speaking of the Indian team dressing room, what's the atmosphere like, with the likes of the Tendulkars and the Dravids sharing space with a host of youngsters?
It's one of the calmest places to be. The senior players know exactly what they need to do both on and off the field. On field, players like VVS, Sachin and Dravid work the hardest and hit the maximum number of balls and that sure is an inspiration to any younger player. Without the senior lot, this Indian team would never have been what it is.
How would you sum up your India coaching stint?
I spent most of my time forming a relationship with players, bonding with them and trying to understand them. I only helped them with one or two things they needed. I think that's how a coach should go about his job.
Your style of coaching is that of being a very behind-the-scenes person. Is that the way you are in personal life too and has that been the secret to your success?
I believe a coach has to be behind the scenes. He forms a relationship with the players and only helps when needed. He need not be the one shouting on the top of his voice and going atop podiums to assert his presence. That's for players to do because it is they who soak in all the pressure when they go in to bat in front of millions of fans. The success is theirs for the taking. I've never liked to be the one taking any publicity. I always prefer to stay away from the spotlight and that has worked for me.
Could you recall the World Cup campaign?
The build-up (to the WC) for us was in trying to get individual players to rise from their individual performances and perform for the team in times of crises. In fact, besides winning the World Cup, we set ourselves the target of becoming the No 1 team in the world. And for this, we needed individuals to fight for a team cause. We worked towards getting individuals to making game-changing contributions to the team. VVS (Laxman) is one great example of this. He has been one of the greatest teammen I've ever come across.
What would be your most memorable non-cricketing experience in India?
I've had a lot of exciting experiences during my two-year stay in India, but I think the most exciting should be the time when I went skiing up north in the Himalayas. That was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
The Indian Premier League is an exciting place to be. When do we see you there?
It sure is, but I won't be there for the next two years at least, because I'm contracted with cricket South Africa for that period.
There have been talks of the BCCI being the all-powerful and influential body when it comes to key decision-making in world cricket and until now you've been on their side with Team India. Henceforth you will be in opposite camps. What's your take on that?
I don't really look at it that way. For me, if the game is run in a fair and exciting way at the global level, that's all what matters. I think the BCCI realises that too.