Mumbai: After taking India to the World Cup glory and many other winning moments in the past, Gary Kirsten on Tuesday officially called it quits as the coach of the World Champion side.
Terming the three-year stint with Team India as a tremendous experience, 'Guru' Gary, said he felt honoured the way he was accepted by Indians despite being a foreigner.
"It's been a tremendous experience. I have been honoured by the way Indians have embraced me. It's been incredible to see how much the Indian people love this game. To see the support the boys get from the Indian fans is fantastic. It's a beautiful country. I have made lots of friends here," he said.
To give his family more time from now on, the South African declined to take any other career option in the near future.
"I am going home to spend some time with my family. But I have to consider my future at some time. I have been fortunate to have been offered some jobs but I want to spend time with my family right now," he said.
Kirsten, who has been instrumental in taking India to many memorable victories since the time he took over from controversy-ridden Greg Chappell, also said, "Coaching Indian cricket team has been my most cherished experience."
Looking back at the memorable World Cup, Kirsten said he was glad that every match that the team played in the group stage turned out to be close one as it prepared the side for the knockout stage.
"It was an interesting World Cup. We never had it easy. The first one against Bangladesh was perhaps the easiest. In the last three games of the knockout stage, there were no big individual contributions. It was a team effort. I was excited about the way we played," he said.
He also said that each member of the side played to its potential and made winning the World Cup possible.
"It has been an amazing achievement to be a part of this special group of cricketers," he said.
The 43-year-old also congratulated the Indian side for achieving the success they have managed so far.
Kirsten was also full of praise for the Indian public and said he would continue to visit the country whenever possible.
"I would definitely consider coming to India. IPL is certainly an avenue from a coaching point of view. But I don't know what I am going to be doing," he said.
The South African acknowledged that it would be a tough job for the next India coach as the task at hand is to sustain the consistency that the team has achieved in the past couple of years.
"Indian cricket is in a healthy position right now. Seam bowling is a slight concern but it has always been. But Indian cricket is going to be in a healthy state for a long time.
"It is going to be tough for the new coach in terms of the standards that have been set. But I don't see why the team should not continue doing well. The foundation has been set. The new coach should bring in fresh ideas," he said.
"I certainly wouldn't want the new guy to try and emulate what has been done in the past three years. Consistency for this team is now going to be very important. I think the foundation is well set," he explained.
Speaking about the young talent India have at their disposal, Kirsten sang praises for Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Cheteshwar Pujara.
"Virat Kohli is ready for Test cricket. He is a bright young star. He has taken the responsibility of playing for India in big games really well. I think it's important to have competitiveness to be in the Indian team. You cannot be in the team with average performances.
"I have really enjoyed working with Suresh Raina. He has been an exceptional player. I have been impressed with Cheteshwar Pujara who can be a star of the future in Test matches. Pragyan Ojha has done well and he just needs to keep learning what he has to do. It is important to find one or two quality seamers.
The 43-year-old also lauded team's bowlers who made the World Cup win possible.
"I was impressed with Munaf Patel. He performed well in the World Cup. Ashish Nehra also did well in the World Cup. Zaheer Khan has been number one for a long time but guys like these need support," Kirsten said.
Kirsten said Zaheer, in fact, is the best medium pacer in the world right now.
"Zaheer is the best 135kmph bowler in the world right now. He performs well under pressure. I think he is an unbelievable bowler to left-handers," he said.
He also appreciated flamboyant batsman Yuvraj Singh, who bagged the 'Man of the Tournament' award at the World Cup for his fantastic performance with both the bat and ball.
"He was well-prepared and he had worked hard on his bowling. For Yuvi to end up being 'Man of the Tournament', I am extremely proud of him," he said.
Asked whether he found handling temperamental pacer S Sreesanth difficult given that even skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems to have given up on him, Kirsten broke into a laughter.
"Paddy spent a lot of time with Sreesanth. He is highly skilled. Sree needs to work on his consistency. He played seven Test matches in a row for us and he was the key. So I think he needs to deliver those performances consistently. It would be wasted potential if a Sreesanth didn't go to the next level in his cricket," he said.
Kirsten also urged his country's media to stop calling the South African chokers.
"South Africa is a great team but I think everyone seems to focus on the World Cup and the knockout stages. In a tournament like this, you need to have huge amount of experience in the middle order which I think they were probably a little short of.
"It worries me when the South African media puts up the chokers' tag. I can understand the opposition media doing it but your media shouldn't. I do feel sad for them. Graeme Smith said 'it's not easy, we are trying' and it's true, it's not easy," he said.
(With inputs from PTI)