Bangalore: Even before the beer stopped flowing in the dressing-room at the WACA in Perth, a Twitter post caught the eye. "Privilege to be part of such a happy team, of really good guys, who also happen to be great cricketers!" The photo that accompanied the tweet had its author, Paddy Upton, holding onto the ICC mace that's awarded to the No. 1 ranked Test team, with Gary Kirsten flashing his biannual big grin. South Africa's staggering 309-run win, after being 75 for 6 on the opening day of the Test, confirmed their place at the top of the table, and re-iterated the beauty and simplicity of the Kirsten-Upton method.
To credit coaches overly for a win that eleven players fought hard to achieve is silly, but it's equally churlish to ignore the back-room men during the good times, only to put them at the front of the queue before the executioner when the results are lacking. The very fact that Kirsten and Upton took an Indian team that was completely different from the South Africans not merely to the No. 1 spot, but also to World Cup glory, suggests that credit is due. South Africa have been good enough not to lose a series away from home in six years, since Sri Lanka beat them 2-0 in August 2006, so the cricketing skills were very much in place when Kirsten and Upton took charge.
A cornerstone of the Kirsten-Upton duo's coaching methodology, as observed when they were part of the Indian set up, was that happy people are successful people, and this applied to cricket as well. Given the sheer technical, physical and skill challenges that the bat and ball game threw up at the highest level, and the already proven calibre of the practitioners, the one thing support staff needed to do was help create the right kind of environment.