Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021

'It Is Your Performance Which Matters'

Former Indian captain and Wisden Indian Cricketer of the Century on India-Pakistan, why we don't have all-rounders and of course, on foreign coaches and whether he wants to coach India...

'It Is Your Performance Which Matters'
'It Is Your Performance Which Matters'

Complete transcript of BBC Hindi special programme Aapki Bat BBC Ke Saath with the one and only Kapil Dev

BBC : Do you agree with the perception that Pakistan team is not as strong as one would have expected them to be and does this put the home team at an advantage?

Kapil Dev : I think the first five days of the series -- the first test -- is very important. Both teams are tense at the moment and to release pressure, both sides are saying the other is better. On paper one may say, the Indian side looks better, but let's remember that in actual match play, one brilliant performance can change the match. Both teams want the first test to pass without any major upset, so that they can study the other side, but to make the series interesting, attack would be the best policy.

BBC listener from Florida : Kapilji, our team has many brilliant performers who do wonders individually, but when it comes to killer instinct, we seem to lack it as a team, when compared to others like Australia...

Kapil Dev : It is easier said than done. Our history has been such -- whether it be sports, academics or any other field -- we have always believed in individuals; that is the way our culture has been. However, during the last 10 years there has been a change, and our team has been playing well. It takes a lot of time to move away from an established practice, but I feel we are going in the right direction though there is a long way to be covered still. It unusually takes longer when you want to do something well.

BBC listener from Madhubani (Bihar) : Why can’t the Indian team be selected on merit rather than going on big names. Sehwag plays only a good innings once out of 15 times when he goes out. Why is talent ignored in India? [This programme was telecast before the first test began]

Kapil Dev : Remember one thing, every player cannot be Sachin Tendulkar who continues to score consistently for more than 15 years. Selectors have faith in their choice and they want to give time to any player to settle down, you can change one or two players, but if you keep on making big and frequent changes in the team, you are likely to unsettle everything. Even the new boys you bring into the team would require some time to adjust to top level of the game, therefore you should have faith in your team -- and our players do come good at crucial times.

BBC listener from Allahabad : Kapilji, what do you say about dropping of Mohammad Kaif from the team despite his good performances? Why is there a lack of transparency in the selection process ?

Kapil Dev : It is easy to talk about any player who is dropped from the squad. Who do you want out of the team? Sachin or Rahul or Sehwag? All I want to say about the present lot which India has is that the boys are young, they have courage and time on their side, and you cannot stop anybody for long if one performs well. You could delay someone, but you cannot deny them the chance -- it has to come one day.

BBC listener from Jodhpur : Sir, why is there political interference in the selection of our team? For example, why has Kaif been omitted and instead Yuvraj has been given a chance?

Kapil Dev : I think if a person is really involved in the game, such a view would not be there. Instead of just criticising the selectors for every move they make, let us give them credit that they want a team which can win. There could be a difference of opinion, and criticism of selectors’ decision should be there, but to say that a particular player been dropped because of politics is not right. We are reaching a stage where people would like to select the team like the TV show Indian Idol, where your choice  is reflected by voting through SMS messages. If you want to remove the selectors, then what can I say?

BBC : Kapil, when traditional rivals India and Pakistan play against each other, what goes through the minds of the players, what sort of feelings are there?

Kapil Dev : Same feelings as I and you have about India-Pakistan matches! If we were playing England, you would not have done this programme and spoken to many players. There is tremendous individual involvement of every citizen in an Indo-Pak match that players want to win the match at all cost. It is people like me and you who make the players tense.

BBC : Why does India lack quality all-rounders? There was a time when you were there, with many others who could bat and bowl. Today, though there are players like Irfan Pathan who can bat and bowl, but there seems no attention towards grooming them. Why is that?

Kapil Dev : Let me answer the second part of your question about Irfan first. Whether anyone recognises you or not is a side issue. It is your performance which matters. If you go out and score 40 to 50 runs frequently, nobody could stop you from being called an all-rounder. There is nothing extraordinary in being an all-rounder.

I was sent to bat at number 11 in my debut first class match. Remember, all players in the playing eleven get a chance to bat, one can understand the difficulty in winning the captain’s confidence to bowl, but batting totally depends on individual will to excel. 

It is quite surprising why the boys do not want to fill the all-rounder slot, since so much one day cricket is being played, and newer versions of the game are coming -- I am myself surprised at this.  In fact, look at the world level -- except three-four names, there are no genuine all-rounders in the game.

It is easier to get into the side, if you are an all-rounder; it gives your captain more options in the team; choices increase.  We were able to win the 1983 World Cup because of all-rounders. There were six or seven all-rounders in that team. Maybe one might not have considered our all-rounders as world class, but they were an asset for the team. If one didn’t click another would, whether it was batting or bowling, and if one was to fail in both, their fielding was exceptionally good. Therefore, I fail to understand why the youngsters today do not want to fill the all-rounder slot.

BBC : Do you see yourself in the role of a coach for the Indian team in coming days, someone who could give the country another all-rounder?

Kapil Dev : I think if I (or any other player who has played for India for that matter) say I want to do this and that, it is not workable. It is for the Board to decide whether it wants to make programmes which could make this possible. We could be considered as gold medalists of a university, and it is now up to the university whether it wants to retain its old students -- a gold medalist cannot open his own university. My view its that there is no former cricketer in the country who would not want to help the cause of Cricket here, but it is for those who take decisions to see what they want.

BBC listener from Oman : Sir, we won the 1983 World Cup and 1985 tournament in Australia, but after that we have not won any major tournament. Why is Indian team not consistent in its performance?

Kapil Dev : Consistency was neither there in the Indian team then, nor is it now. It is a batch of players at times who have performed well, and given positive results. But if you look at the last two decades I think Indian Cricket has achieved a lot of  progress. Before the 1983 World Cup, India was not taken as a force to reckon with in international cricket. The scene has since changed -- name any team in the world, nobody can afford to take India lightly.

BBC listener from Delhi : Sir, our team has great names in batting, but bowling is weak and all-rounders are totally absent. You have achieved what every cricketer wants to, what in your view should be done to inculcate the killer instinct in Indian team ?

Kapil Dev :   Killer instinct does not come from the Cricket team, it comes from your home, where you come from, what sort of environment you have lived in.  If you think that by being a member of the Indian team, one would develop killer instinct overnight, then that is simply not going to happen. I feel that if one has been brought up in an environment where you feel satisfied and have a feeling of being content, then you cannot have the instinct. I agree with you that the Indian team has big names, and in my view being a big name is not enough in the game of Cricket -- your statistics, averages and records do not matter till the time you are able to win matches, and, believe me, big names have to really work hard to be match winners. If you are unable to win matches, you would not be counted among the great player.

BBC listener from Punjab : Sir, beating Pakistan in Pakistan last year was great. What scope do you see for the Indian team during this series ?

Kapil Dev : Every team wants to win a series abroad. At the moment, you have to see which team is better. We are playing at home and the pressure to win is on us. For the Indian team, it is a situation similar to what Pakistan faced last year. Expectations are high, and if the team does not win at home, it would face what Pakistan faced after Indians beat them last year. It would be said that the team is good only on paper. If India wants to improve its ratings and wants to be in top three, then it is important for India to win at home.

BBC : Kapil, Pakistan is playing this series without Shoaib. In these circumstances, what do you think are the strong and weak points of India, and how do you rate Pakistan?

Kapil Dev : We have many big names, but it is crucial that the names should match their performance -- this is our biggest strength and weakness too. Sometimes when there are many big names, one thinks someone or the other might steady the innings, but it does not always happen. However, things would be clear only as the series progresses. When we talk about an Indo-Pak series, remember players have not only to play but to entertain also, let us hope for good cricket !

BBC : Kapil, who, in your view, holds the key to the series? Which player could be the trump card in this series?

Kapil Dev : I think if we look at bowling, a lot depends on Anil Kumble. If he gets going, then he could change the match within two hours. Remember he has done that many times in the past.  Similarly, from Pakistan point of view, their skipper Inzamam holds the key. He has a good record against India, and in the conditions here, he could perform well. I do not agree with the perception that it is going to be easy for India, especially with Inzy there. So Anil Kumble and Inzaman are the key players.

BBC listener from Bihwani (Haryana) : Sir, why is Indian batting order shuffled around so much? It leads to inconsistent performance and does India need a foreign coach in whose tenure we are ranked eighth in one day cricket?

Kapil Dev : During the past five to seven years, Indian team has been performing well, but what happens is that our expectations from the team are very high and sometimes in our failure of judgement, we blame the team. So far as the issue of foreign coach is concerned, it is for the Board, and, in fact, the president of the Board is from your town, he should be answering this question -- since we are not a part of the Board, what can I say? But my view is that we have very competent names in the country itself who are ready to help the team, but it is for the Board to decide.

BBC : Kapil, how do you rate Saurav as captain – successful or unsuccessful?

Kapil Dev :   I think he is very determined. When he took over the captaincy, there was a problem -- the team was in shambles and Sachin did not want to lead the team. So for the first four years of his stint, Saurav did very well. In the past two years, he has been under pressure since his own performance has not been that good. But for a captain it is the team’s performance that has to come first, rather than his individual performance. I think a captain should forget about his own performance and should concentrate on how the team is doing, and should adapt to what condition the team wants. If a captains’s performance suffers but the team does well, it is okay; however if the captain wants to improve his individual performance at the cost of the team, it would be detrimental for everyone. All in all, Saurav has done good work.

BBC : Kapil, are you worried with Sachin’s fitness and form?

Kapil Dev :   I am not worried. What do you want from Sachin? He has played superb cricket for the country during the past 15 years including, I would say, some unbelievable knocks. The player who plays for such a long period is bound to have injuries and other similar problems. He is ageing, and one day his cricketing career would also come to an end. We would see brilliant performances from him off and on, but remember he is not twenty; he is not going to be twenty again. The thing is that the expectation level from him is very high. We should not expect what he used to do at 25; he is a different person now.

Sachem is immensely talented. It is totally up to him, how much interest he has in the game -- and that is what I am also interested in.  One needs to see how he wants to play the game. He still has a lot of ability left in him, fitness is the key but he is not 100 percent fit, so I cannot say anything.


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