A few life lessons from Gary Kirsten

T HERE’S a lot one can learn from Gary Kirsten, the current South African cricket coach. To me he comes across as a thoughtful, humble person, perhaps one of the most underrated guys.

When I was in high school, Gary was my idol. What I liked about him was that he wore a bandana, and scored hundreds. I remember his 188 not out against the UAE, I remember his unorthodox technique and I remember his ability to concentrate for long periods.

But Gary gives off a vibe as well. Recently he came to Pietermaritzburg and spoke at a number of functions. Two things he spoke about stood out for me: how he became the Indian cricket coach (which would end up with him leading them to World Cup glory) and also the impact he had on Sachin Tendulkar.

From what he described, he became Indian cricket coach more by accident than by design. And despite all the insecurities, he took the job and launched himself and his family on a life-changing adventure. The lesson for him, and for all of us, is that God asks us to do these kinds of things every so often.

But perhaps the most eye-opening thing for me was an incident that occurred on the night that India won the world cup. Gary was walking back through the hotel to his room, early in the morning after the celebrations.

He walked passed Sachin Tendulkar’s room, where the Little Master and his wife were chatting with the door open. Mrs Tendulkar ran out and called Gary back.

“I just want to thank you for all you’ve done for Sachin,” she told him. “These four years have been the happiest of his career.”

For the uninitiated, Sachin Tendulkar is one of the greatest batsmen of all time. He is on a god-like celebrity status in India. Think Beatlemania, and you get some idea. The guy is hounded anywhere he goes. But popularity doesn’t necessarily guarantee friendship.

The fact that his wife sought Gary out demonstrates the impact he had on the man’s life.

When he started the job in India, Gary wondered what on earth he possessed that he could impact to a man like Tendulkar. What do you teach the greatest? How do you coach a master? Gary’s only answer was that you don’t. You just be a friend to him, and you just be yourself.

How God uses us, just as we are, is best demonstrated to me in this story. We can all impact in great ways, just by being our humble selves.

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