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27 Feb 2008 10:52
India’s new cricket coach Gary Kirsten said on Wednesday he was impressed with the team’s aggressive attitude despite controversies on their ongoing tour of Australia.
“What I like about Indian cricket as a whole now, and especially about the young players, is that they are ready to accept the battle,” said the former South African batsman, who officially takes over as coach next month.
“I think that’s very healthy for the game, whereas in the past they tended to back off. I am excited by some of these younger players coming through with a belief that they are ready to compete with the best.”
The relations between the Indian and Australian teams suffered yet another blow on Tuesday when opening batsman Matthew Hayden called Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh an “obnoxious weed” on Brisbane radio.
Fast-rising teenage Indian fast bowler Ishant Sharma was fined on Sunday after a verbal clash with Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds during a one-day match of the ongoing triangular series, also featuring Sri Lanka.
The Indians claimed the youngster was provoked by Symonds and lodged a complaint with match-referee Jeff Crowe about the “provocative” behaviour of the Australians, particularly towards Harbhajan.
The bad blood stretches back to the second Test in Sydney in January when Harbhajan was suspended for three matches for racially abusing Symonds, a ban overturned at a subsequent International Cricket Council hearing.
Kirsten said he did not believe in sledging, but authorities would have to take a decision on it as the stakes were “high”.
“There’s a lot of gamesmanship, but I think somewhere along the line there will be a high-level policy decision taken.
I have experienced various styles of playing the game, but did not believe in sledging,” he said.
“I don’t know what the right way is.
Kirsten, who met Indian officials and captain Anil Kumble in Mumbai on a two-day visit, said his biggest test during a two-year tenure would be to help the team go through a smooth transition.
The current Indian Test side contains five ageing players, with Kumble being the oldest at 37. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly are both 35, followed by Sachin Tendular (34) and Venkatsai Laxman (33).
“I would like to see a smooth transition. Maybe in 18 months we could have two new players in the Test side,” said the 40-year-old Kirsten, who quit international cricket in 2004 after playing 101 Tests and 185 one-dayers.
“So there’s going to be a lot of planning on that front and a lot of discussion with senior players on when their time is up.
“That’s something we have to manage very carefully, with myself being involved and some of the other people, including the players themselves. My motivation is to make the Indian team highly competitive and consistent.”
Kirsten begins his new assignment with a Test series in India against his home side.
South Africa arrive in India next month for three Tests. - Sapa-AFP
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