London: Kapil Dev’s attempt to bring the players together on one platform, in the lead-up to the 1987 World Cup, eventually cost him the India captaincy. The Establishment, quite simply, had become too wary.
Fifteen years on, the cricketers’ interest isn’t far from Kapil’s heart and mind. On a private visit here, Kapil spoke to The Telegraph rather passionately about the ongoing Player Terms controversy.
“Our boys are undergoing mental torture... I can’t describe it any better... Irrespective of what they may say publicly, they are under severe pressure and, frankly, I feel very sorry for them,” he emphasised Monday morning.
Kapil added, emotionally: “What I can’t understand is why must the cricketers sign a contract with the International Cricket Council (ICC)... Any arrangement should necessarily be with the home Board... Does the ICC select our teams' Does the ICC look after the players' Does the ICC provide our match fees' It’s beyond me...”
He continued: “What’s more amazing is that the ICC wants our cricketers to break existing contracts, wants them to do something unlawful... Is this how the sport’s governing body should behave' Should it encourage indiscipline' I can’t believe it... Moreover, how can our Board be a party to all this' Are contracts/agreements ever one-sided'”
Kapil, who met the Indian team (barring captain Sourav Ganguly who wasn’t around) at the St James Crowne Plaza Sunday, remarked that “all players do wish to play for the country” and that nobody should “misunderstand” their present stand. He added: “The sooner a settlement is reached, the better.”
[By the evening, it did appear a ‘breakthrough’ could be achieved.]
Looking ahead to the decider at The Oval, beginning Thursday, Kapil said: “Our boys must stay focussed and not get distracted by the Terms affair... In fact, they shouldn’t put themselves under pressure and must enjoy themselves... Staying relaxed and being positive will help...”
Incidentally, Kapil was captain during India’s last overseas (series) win outside the sub-continent — England (1986) — and he remains confident Sourav can emulate him.
“I must compliment Sourav for having chosen to bat at Headingley, where the ball always does something... That one positive move alone shows he is quickly maturing as captain... Then, Sourav is himself among runs... A batsman-captain looks so much better if he is himself scoring,” Kapil pointed out.
[Sourav registered a punishing 128 — his ninth Test hundred.]
Kapil, however, had a word of advice: “While there isn’t any one dangerman in the England team, all are aware of what their role is. Therefore, Sourav and the boys shouldn’t try and underestimate them...”
While agreeing that fielding both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh (at Headingley) contributed to India’s innings victory, Kapil felt the 600-plus total made the biggest difference.
“With such a huge total, it’s so much easier to attack and the spinners, especially, gain in confidence... I’m delighted Rahul Dravid (148) was adjudged Man of the Match but, in time, Sanjay Bangar’s role (68 on that difficult first morning) shouldn’t be overlooked...”
As Kapil had an engagement, he ended with a typical dil se thought: “A week from now and, hopefully, the series will be India’s... Indeed, after Headingley, I can’t visualise our boys losing.”