Gary Kirsten is back in the city where he won his first World Cup as coach. As he walks into the hotel lobby, he naturally turns heads. He looks super fit and can give any 20-something player a run for his money. Here to launch his wife Deborah's book, Chai tea & Ginger beer: My Unexpected Journey ... Cricket, Family and Beyond, Kirsten is happy playing a loving husband and caring father. Before the interaction, which he was initially hesitant about, Kirsten was enjoying Mahendra Singh Dhoni'
"I have always said that he is one of the greatest players to have ever played. I have worked with him as a coach. He is a great player. He will be regarded as one of India's great players if not the greatest captain. His performances tell the story. You just have to look at his performances," says Kristen. The 101-Test veteran says the Indian captain still instils fear in the opposition ranks. "The South African players will be happy if he wasn't there in the team," he says, before asking, "Who is going to replace him? Virat (Kohli) bats at No. 3. What is his (Dhoni's) one-day average. Best in the world? (Laughs). I can't understand the thinking," he adds. He also rubbished the talk of Dhoni losing his big-hitting skills. "I saw some big shots this evening (Wednesday). I saw some huge shots. Do the media do that to the players? Why would they run a player down like it? He is one of the greatest players India have ever had. Would they do that to Sachin? I think it's very unfair," says Kirsten. The Indian team went through a transitional phase after Kirsten quit his job after the 2011 World Cup. This young team believes in being aggressive and doing well. "I think the Indian team has done well in the last few years to be honest. They won the Champions Trophy in 2013, it was a great result and another trophy for them. They have brought in a lot of young players. I kind of finished with a lot of the senior players. Many players were at the end of their careers. There was a new process unfolded for the preparation of the World Cup. I think there are some great young players who have come through. Rohit Sharma is shining, Ajinkya Rahane is playing beautiful cricket, Virat has come through as captain. He continues to play good cricket, Ashwin has done really well. These are exciting young players with great form. They have now played three-four years, it's a good sign," he says. Kirsten, who went on to coach South Africa with some success, says he is not surprised to see the Proteas doing well in India. "I think South Africa has got a great team. They have always had one. They always play well in India. So, it is not surprise for me that they are playing well. Most of the players are playing in the IPL. So they understand the conditions. They have got experience in the top six. The guys know the conditions. They have played a lot of games together. They have an experienced batting unit, so it doesn't surprise me that South Africa are playing really good cricket at the moment. They are a great team with some exciting young talent coming through," he says. India, he says, should play to their strengths. "India need to play to their strengths like South Africa always play to their strengths at home. People tend to forget that South Africa haven't lost a Test series away from home in seven years. They know how to play away from home. They do really good preparation. They would have done their homework. They are not an easy team to beat," he says. Kirsten is looking forward to the four-match Test series. "Every team needs to play to their strengths. Especially in Test cricket. That is what I love about Test cricket. As a Test-playing side, you know you are worth your salt as a team when you can perform in all sorts of different conditions. That is why I am not a fan of neutralising wickets. I think it's great to play in different conditions around the world because that's the exciting thing about Test cricket," says Kirsten. Kirsten has been one of India's best coaches and there have been attempts to get him back. "There have been one or two phone calls. I am not in a position to make those decisions. I am enjoying my life out of cricket," he says. He, however, doesn't rule out a comeback. "You can never rule anything out in life. See what the situation is. I never say yes or never say no, it's difficult," he signs off.