New Delhi, March 31 (AFP): India coach Gary Kirsten and Sri Lankan counterpart Trevor Bayliss may have earned lavish praises for their invaluable inputs, but unfortunately only one will be smiling on Saturday night.
With both the coaches stepping down after the World Cup, they will be expecting something special from their respective teams in the day-night final in Mumbai.
Consistency has so far marked the performances of their sides in the high-pressure tournament, with Sri Lanka and India each having won six of their eight matches.
Australia-born Bayliss, 48, may not have played any international cricket, but has acquitted himself remarkably well as coach as Sri Lanka improved their rankings in both Tests and one-dayers during his stint. Kirsten, 43, figured in 101 Tests and 185 one-day internationals for South Africa before proving his coaching credentials in cricket-crazy India.
Both coaches faced different challenges when they took over in 2007.
Expectations were high when Bayliss replaced compatriot Tom Moody, who guided Sri Lanka to the 2007 World Cup final in the Caribbean, and he saw to it that the team remained a highly competitive unit in the international arena.
Can he go one step ahead and do a Dav Whatmore, a former Australian player and coach of the 1996 World Cup-winning Sri Lankan squad?
Indian cricket was passing through difficult times when Kirsten took over after a turbulent era under Australian coach Greg Chappell.
Fans had begun to lose faith in the team, especially after a first-round exit from the 2007 World Cup under Chappell, but Kirsten put Indian cricket back on the right track during his four-years.
India not only secured the number-one ranking in Tests and number two in one-day internationals under Kirsten, but also became a potent force both at home and away.
All the Indian players have praised the coach’s role in improving the dressing-room atmosphere.
“Since Gary started, the team unity, the way we practice and believe in each other, it’s like a family,” said Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the coach had done a fantastic job.
“The way he (Kirsten) has managed each and every individual and I think he has done a fantastic job. It reflects as to how we have done well on the field. I think he is a fantastic gentleman to be associated with,” said Dhoni.
Indian batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar said the team owed their successes to the coach.
“He (Kirsten) has been an important member of the Indian squad along with the other support staff. I have enjoyed my game under him. He is really putting in a lot of effort, said Tendulkar.
Bayliss said ahead of the tournament that winning the World Cup had always been the aim.
“That’s been the goal for the last four years since I came in. The World Cup success is a very big thing in Sri Lanka,” he said.
“It’s obviously been the focus since the last World Cup, where being runners-up was a great effort. Everyone involved in cricket would like to copy what happened in 1996.”