Mumbai: Kapil Dev, India’s first captain to win a World Cup (1983), spoke to The Telegraph at the Wankhede on Friday afternoon.
The following are excerpts
Q Surprised that India chose to play only one new-ball bowler — Zaheer Khan?
A Well, (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni took a big gamble on winning the toss. It came off... But, if he’d lost the toss, India could have been in a spot of bother... I suppose Virat Kohli would have shared the new ball with Zaheer, but that wouldn’t have been the ideal situation.
Fine. What would you have done?
If I had a Sourav Ganguly in the XI, I would also have taken three spinners... Otherwise, my attack would have been 2-2... Sourav could bowl 10-15 overs and had the ability to pick up a wicket or two... Generally speaking, I’d get Yuvraj (Singh) to bowl more.
The Test here marks Harbhajan Singh’s comeback at the very highest level, after 15 months. Despite having 406 wickets in Test cricket, he’s had to wait...
But so what? Just because so many wickets have been taken or so many runs have been scored by somebody shouldn’t alone guarantee a place for him. If somebody has to be dropped or be made to wait for his chance, so be it.
So, nobody is indispensable. Is that it?
I’d say the team comes first.
This is Virender Sehwag’s 100th Test. Did you think that somebody with his approach would actually reach this landmark?
I certainly didn’t expect Sehwag to maintain this tempo... Just look at him... He began his 100th Test with a 50-plus average and 23 hundreds... An average of over 50, across 100 Tests, is exceptional. How many have it? Bowling ka mazaaq bana deta hai.
Where would you place Sehwag in the list of all-time Indian greats?
I’d place him with Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar), Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul (Dravid)... Dilip Vengsarkar and (V.V.S.) Laxman, to name two, come later.
What, for you, is special about Sehwag?
The way he bats, unconcerned about the situation... If Sehwag had Sachin’s temperament, he would have scored 40 Test hundreds.
You’re also a member of the 100 Tests’ club, having played 131 matches. What are your memories of the landmark-reaching Test (Karachi, November 1989)?
(Laughs) I remember that Test because it was Sachin’s debut... I was the third Indian (after Gavaskar and Vengsarkar) to get there... I don’t think there was a celebration.
Is there anything else you remember of that Test?
That Azhar (Mohammed Azharuddin) wasn’t supposed to be in the XI, but Raman Lamba had an injury and, so, he kept his place. Azhar didn’t look back after that. In fact, he became the captain from the very next series, in New Zealand.
While on Azhar, the Andhra Pradesh high court has struck down as “illegal” and “unsustainable” the life ban slapped on him for match-fixing by the Board. What should the Board do now? It hasn’t firmed its response...
Look, I’m nobody to advise the Board.
But you’ve consistently been supporting Azhar, isn’t it?
For what he’s done as a cricketer.
What’s your take on Cheteshwar Pujara, who is averaging an astonishing 361.00 in this series?
Pujara’s on the right track... Obviously, he’s in form, but I won’t compare him to anybody. He’ll have to continue being consistent, for consistency is the hallmark of truly good players.
It’s pleasing the way Pujara has grabbed his chance...
Always nice when somebody young makes use of the opportunities.
Dhoni wants rank turners. As a former captain yourself, what do you have to say?
All captains like to have the home advantage... Depends on the curators. In any case, khali bolne se kuch nahin hota.
Lastly, some words on Michael Clarke. How do you rate him?
Clarke isn’t the most attractive batsman to watch, but look at his form this year! Scoring double hundreds is coming so easy to the Australia (Test and ODI) captain.