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Not fair if 1 captain is expected to deliver in all formats:Bishan

Former India captain on leadership
A Telegraph Exclusive
Bishan Singh Bedi at a city hotel, on Saturday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh

Calcutta: The candid and colourful Bishan Singh Bedi, a former India captain, spoke to The Telegraph exclusively on captaincy.

In fact, Bedi was the India captain during the first revival series featuring Pakistan, in 1978-79, when Kapil Dev made his debut.

Bedi, now 65, is the J&K coach. He doesn’t quite like the designation, though, and prefers to be called “cricketing mentor.”

In the city on a brief visit, Bedi will be the chief guest at the CAB’s annual awards function on Sunday. Today’s generation has much to learn from him.

The following are excerpts

Q What are the qualities you look for in a captain?

A In the Indian context, a captain must be above parochial considerations... A captain should always put the team first, not place himself in the forefront. After all, it’s the team which matters the most. A captain must be able to create the right atmosphere for a happy dressing room... Most important, a captain should always be positive... He must go for a win, even if there’s the risk of losing. Richie Benaud had that approach... Tiger (Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi) was no different. Ian Chappell, too.

Who’d be your five favourite captains?

(Laughs) That’s tough, very tough... Naming seven would, I suppose, be less difficult... Alphabetically, they’d be...

RICHIE BENAUD: Was very positive and always wanted to win. As Australia’s captain in that memorable 1960-61 series against the West Indies, he’s ensured for himself a place among the immortals of the game. In the Tied Test, in Brisbane, Australia weren’t well-placed in the last innings, but Benaud’s instructions were to keep going for the target (233). That’s the way he played his cricket.

SIR DONALD BRADMAN: A ruthless captain, who wouldn’t settle for anything less than a win. Nobody could challenge his place in the team... Sir Don demanded and commanded respect. I met him long after he’d retired and he still came across as a wonderful communicator.

Sir Don is no more with us — he died at 92, in February 2001.

MIKE BREARLEY: An intellectual captain... You could debate whether he deserved a place in the team purely as a player, but what a captain! That he’s a psychoanalyst helped him understand his team and the opposition better. Only Brearley, I guess, could have got the best out of Ian Botham. He transformed Botham in that momentous Ashes series, in 1981.

IMRAN KHAN: A dictator and a showman, but he delivered... He enjoyed leading from the front. His was a one-man show, with even the selectors having no role... I doubt if any other cricketer has punished his body as much as Imran... He’d work very hard and his teammates had no choice but to follow him.

MANSUR ALI KHAN PATAUDI: India’s finest, the ideal captain for our environment... Tiger was positive and didn’t think of drawing, put the team first, wasn’t parochial and brought about a definite Indianness in the dressing room... I remember he insisted that the entire team talk in English twice a week on the 1967-68 tour of Australia and New Zealand! Some in the team couldn’t speak Hindi, so it had to be English. Also, cricket is an English sport and Tiger wanted his players to be comfortable in the English language. If, on those two days, you were caught speaking in Punjabi or Marathi or Tamil, then you were fined! Getting everybody to communicate in one language was Tiger’s way of uniting the dressing room, of fostering camaraderie.

Tiger left us suddenly, in September 2011. He was 70.

MARK TAYLOR: Like Brearley, a very intellectual captain... Very unassuming... Being the positive sort, at no stage in a match would he down shutters. He kept the flock together and the players rallied behind him.

SIR FRANK WORRELL: Commanded enormous respect... He kept the West Indies side together, which, as you know, wasn’t a mean achievement. Nobody has forgotten his role in that great series (1960-61) in Australia.

Sir Frank died very young, at the age of 42, in March 1967.

Do captains have a shelf life? Graeme Smith, for example, is in his 10th year as South Africa’s Test captain...

A I believe it’s good enough if a captain has been in the job for four-five years... After that, fresh ideas are needed... They have to be injected... Evolution demands that there be a change... Perhaps, (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni’s luck has stretched his innings... He’s there despite India getting thrashed in successive series’ overseas.

Are you in favour of splitting the captaincy — one for Test cricket and the other for ODIs and T20 Internationals?

Some countries already have different captains... The calendar is too hectic nowadays and it’s not fair if one captain is expected to deliver in all formats.

Should India have two captains?

Look, it appears Dhoni is better suited to limited overs cricket.

That being so, who is your choice for the Test captaincy?

It’s not my job to pick captains... The selectors have to do so.

Surely, it’s not easy being the India captain...

(Laughs) Of course not. It’s the most difficult job after the Prime Minister’s. Manmohan Singh will confirm that his is the most difficult job.

Do you have a message for Dhoni?

No.

The last one... What’s your advice to the very young captains?

To be a good captain, you first need to be a good student of the game... Captaincy has much to do with being instinctive, decisions have to be taken on the feet, not in a war room. If something clicks, don’t go over the moon; if something doesn’t, don’t think you’ve let the team and yourself down. In any case, you never stop learning.