Calcutta, Jan.17: Coming just days after the fantastic win in Adelaide, Kapil Dev’s “Sourav Ganguly isn’t yet the best captain” remark caused a flutter. At the very least, it wasn’t seen as being politically correct.
This afternoon, however, Kapil made ‘amends’ by listing Sourav’s 144 in the rain-marred first Test (Brisbane) as the one innings which lifted Team India’s challenge in a throbbing series which eventually ended 1-1.
“Not only now, but in years to come, that Sourav hundred will be remembered as the proverbial turning point in our performance overseas… He may not acknowledge it, but everybody saw him as a weak link against the quicks on pitches with bounce. Well, Sourav not just silenced critics, but gave teammates the confidence to aim very high,” Kapil told The Telegraph.
Taking a break from finalising the release of his autobiography (Straight from the Heart) in centres outside New Delhi, Kapil added: “Basically, others felt that if Sourav could produce a masterly innings, it would be easy for them as well… Full marks, then, to the captain…”
Kapil, though, didn’t change his stand on the “best captain” bit.
“I know Sourav is soon completing four years in the hot seat… I also know that, statistically, he’s the No.1… However, being the best is different… In Sydney, for instance, we should have prolonged our first innings if batting once was the original game plan… Even otherwise, why didn’t we enforce the follow-on' Sourav seekh raha hai, from experience and mistakes, and isn’t afraid to attempt something new… Still, for me, (Mansur Ali Khan) Pataudi remains our best captain.”
Reflecting on the Test series which ended last week, Kapil picked V.V.S. Laxman as the one player who appreciably enhanced his standing.
“Of course, Rahul Dravid scored a record 619 runs and, indeed, batted beautifully… But, in my view, we expected him to deliver in that manner. Laxman, on the other hand, proved he can now be counted among the best anywhere… The quality of his (494) runs was absolutely world-class.”
Sachin Tendulkar did come good in the last Test (Sydney), but his career-best unbeaten 241 in the first innings didn’t enthuse Kapil.
“Sachin struggled… He was determined, yes, but didn’t bat the way we know he can… Having seen some great innings of his, from close quarters, that double hundred certainly didn’t make a huge impression on me… The pressure, I guess, is too much on Sachin.”
While lauding Akash Chopra for consistently seeing the shine off the (first) new ball, Kapil saluted Virender Sehwag for his “extraordinary” range of shots. “Mere hisab se, at this moment, he’s the only Indian who can smash a triple hundred in a single day… His shots are out of this world… Sachin does have the potential, but won’t unleash his entire range… So, Sehwag is the one who may get to 300 within 90 overs…”
[Incidentally, Sehwag’s 195 on the first day of the Melbourne Test is the maximum by an Indian on a single day anywhere.]
Talking of the bowlers, specifically the quicks, Kapil said: “If there’s a lesson, it’s that the present lot must be fitter… Zaheer Khan was excellent in Brisbane but, thereafter, was unfit… Irfan Pathan' He has the potential but, first, should get stronger… Judge him after he has played 15 Tests in succession, not earlier…”
As for senior pro Anil Kumble, in his 34th year, Kapil felt his continuation is going to be a bonus for Team India.
“I’m happy he collected a personal best of 24 wickets (in just three Tests)… People won’t say he’s good on pitches at home only… Frankly, though, Anil isn’t really the same bowler and, from now on, each time he takes the field (in a Test) will be a bonus… That, at least, is my opinion.”
Kumble has 382 wickets in 81 Tests.
Signing off, Kapil maintained India could win the ongoing tri-series if Sachin and Sehwag “consistently have a blast” at the very top of the order. He added: “The Australians, by the way, aren’t unbeatable…”
Our next test is hours away.