'We knew we were going to win' - Kirsten
Gary Kirsten has called the tough quarter-final against Australia a tipping point in self-belief in the Indian camp, and that it led to a "sense of destiny" about winning the World Cup. Though no host country had won the World Cup before, Kirsten said he thought there was "never any doubt" about India becoming champions as the knockout stage progressed.
"I felt we were going to do this thing. And to the point the day before the final we knew were going to win," he told ESPNcricinfo on Monday (full interview will be published on Tuesday). "We actually even spoke about it. That we were going to win this thing. It [the issue] is how we prepare to deal with the success because we are going to win. There was never any doubt at that stage."
Kirsten said he was thrilled with the resilience of the Indian team, which managed to win though their opponents were generally viewed to have the edge at the halfway stage of each of the knockout matches. "The one thing what really worked for us in the tournament was that we got ourselves into tough situations in virtually every game," he said. "Even the games against Ireland and the Netherlands were tough. But I believe that really helped us. We were battle-hardened. We had no easy build-up.
"For me the key moment was the Australian game where we chased down 260, which was a tough ask. And from that moment I just got a real sense that within our unit that now we can actually believe that we can win this (World Cup) because we can confront any situation.
"We just believe that we can do anything. It stems from Harbhajan Singh scoring hundreds. It stems from Ishant Sharma batting with [VVS] Laxman to save a game. It stems from Gautam Gambhir batting out a day against South Africa in really tough conditions at Newlands. And then all the one-day efforts from difficult situations."
One man who rescued the team from tight situations in several matches was Yuvraj Singh, who had lost his place in the one-day side last year after struggling with form and fitness, but transformed into a match-winning allrounder in the World Cup.
"Yuvi had a turnaround I would say about six months ago when he got left out of the side in Sri Lanka. From that moment he did a lot of work with Paddy [Upton, the mental conditioning coach]. He made some personal decisions about what he was going to do in preparation for the World Cup: one of them was his fielding, one of them was his fitness.
"He had been through a tough six months, and to end up being the player of the World Cup that is as good a turnaround I have seen in world sport. He just personified the desire and the pride that these individuals have in playing for the country."
Among the people who inspired Yuvraj and the rest of the Indian team in the build-up to the tournament was Mike Horn, a high-altitude climber and Arctic explorer, who returned to help the team in the knockout phase as well. Among Horn's extreme adventure feats are climbing a 8000-metre peak without oxygen, navigating 7000km of the Amazon river besides traversing the Arctic circle without the help of motorised transport.
"The guys were really impressed with Horn's first session, which was during the Kolkata Test against South Africa last year," Kirsten said. "So we got him again during the pre-tournament stage. And again he went down remarkably well with the players, really connected with them, players love him, gave a couple of chat sessions, got involved in the practices.
"We wanted him (again) from the quarters but he said he couldn't make it but he came for the semis. The players were unaware when he entered the room in Mohali. He gave three very really inspirational talks leading into the final. He really just shares his personal experiences about his life and his adventures. He was the X-factor. He was that little bit of extra kick we needed."
Horn may have provided the extra kick, but it was Kirsten's low-profile coaching technique that constructed the base for the team to succeed. Everyone from Sachin Tendulkar to Virender Sehwag have repeatedly spoken of how Kirsten has helped them with their game, and the respect with which the players hold Kirsten was demonstrated when they chaired him around the ground during the victory celebrations at the Wankhede Stadium.
Despite the high esteem in which he is held within the Indian establishment, and the many successes during his three years in charge, Kirsten ruled out continuing to coach the national team and said he hadn't been approached by the BCCI to change his mind. The time away from his young family in South Africa was one of the factors in his decision, and he was yet to decide on what his next job would be.
"There is a lot on the table, you know. South Africa have approached me, and a couple of IPL teams have approached me," he said. One of them is the Mumbai Indians, and the other is a team that he has "forgotten" but for now it seems the only way in which he may remain connected to Indian cricket will be through the IPL.