Gary Kirsten

'We just had too many good players' – Gary Kirsten on India's 2011 World Cup triumph

Gary Kirsten, the South African who coached India to the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2011 trophy, has said the Indian team at the time "just had too many good players" not to win the premier event.

Kirsten, who coached India from 2008 and stepped down after the World Cup win, reminisced about the tournament, saying India played "average" cricket in the group stages before coming into their own as the stakes got higher, starting with the quarter-final win over defending champions Australia. 

"We had played average through the tournament," Kirsten told ICC. "We had a really good quarter-final where we were under pressure. In my head, I just thought 'we are not playing that well and winning. Imagine, when we play well'."

Gary Kirsten on India's CWC 2011 triumph

India went on to beat Pakistan in the semi-final to set up a final clash against co-hosts Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Sri Lanka were tough opponents, posting a challenging 274/6 on the back of a brilliant unbeaten century by Mahela Jayawardene.

In reply, India stuttered at 31/2, before Gautam Gambhir put on partnerships with Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni to rescue the team. Dhoni shrugged off indifferent form to score a 79-ball 91*, and put on an unbeaten 54* with Yuvraj Singh to seal the trophy. 

"It was tight all the way. We bowled OK – [274] is a really competitive score in the final. [I thought] this team was capable of doing that from a batting perspective. That for me was ... 'OK we can lose a few wickets here, we have got too many good players.' That's exactly what happened.

In my head, I just thought we are not playing that well and winning. Imagine, when we play well and win.

Gary Kirsten

"We just had too many good players. Someone was going to get a hundred, and in the the end, Gautam Gambhir got [97]. He was the rock of our batting line-up. We just had great players around."

It was a surprise to many that Dhoni walked out at No.4 – he wasn't in the best touch, and India still needed 161 to win at that point – but Kirsten revealed it was entirely Dhoni's decision, and he wasn't going to stop him.

"There was just some thinking around ... having a left-hand-right-hand combination against [Muttiah] Muralitharan. That's why he [Dhoni] was quite keen to go up the order. He just knocked on the window, and said, 'I want to go in next and I'd be good for that'. I was not going to say no," Kirsten smiled.

MSD's famous 'helicopter' six in the 49th over helped India secure their second World Cup title
MSD's famous 'helicopter' six in the 49th over helped India secure their second World Cup title

"I always liked him to finish games. He was the best in the world at that. So in the final, there were still a lot of runs to get. I did have a second thought, but I just could see it in his eyes, he wanted to go bat."

Dhoni finished things off with a six down the ground off Nuwan Kulasekara in the penultimate over as India won their second World Cup title after 28 years.