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My heart roots for India, but the mind isn’t convinced: Kapil Dev

- EXCLUSIVE
- India’s 1st World Cup-winning captain on cricket’s shortest format
Kapil Dev

Dhaka:Kapil Dev, India’s first captain to win a World Cup, spoke to The Telegraph over breakfast at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon on Thursday.

Excerpts...

 

Q What makes the biggest difference in T20?

A I retired long before T20 came into being, but I suppose it’s the mindset. Also, the backing of the team management... Players must be given the confidence to express themselves, to bring their potential to the fore. Otherwise, failure could make it very tough in T20s. So, it’s the mindset.

Don’t nerves come into play as well?

In must-win matches, yes. On paper, South Africa look formidable, but can they hold nerve in the do-or-die situations?

The World T20 proper begins on Friday... As we speak, which are the three teams with the best chance to lift the trophy?

You’ve asked a tough question... Most teams have the firepower to go the distance. But, on the evidence of the warm-ups, the West Indies look the strongest. They again look somewhat like the champions they were in the 1980s... They’ve got match-winners both in batting and bowling, led by Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine.

Dark horse?

I’m picking New Zealand as the dark horse... Captain Brendon McCullum is the biggest star, but the team plays with such commitment. Given their lack of experience, the issue is whether they can maintain momentum and win a tournament.

India?

My heart roots for India, but the mind isn’t convinced. Why? Because of our bowling. Also, the openers (Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma) haven’t been making the most of the first six overs.

Do we have one standout bowler?

No. I don’t think captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni can confidently go to any bowler and say ‘right, you’re my man for the job’.

What is India’s strength?

The presence of players of the calibre of Dhoni and Virat Kohli.

Ramiz Raja feels that having played in the recent Asia Cup, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India enjoy a distinct advantage. You don’t, then, agree with him...

But haven’t the teams changed? Moreover, in today’s world, players from every country have played in the subcontinent. They know what to expect. Conditions don’t remain alien.

Who’re the five players who could leave the most significant impression?

Look, no team can hope to win on the back of performances from just one player. That point made, my five would (in random order) be...

SUNIL NARINE: A champion bowler. He’s no longer a newcomer, but the batsmen still struggle to pick him. Can hold nerve in the critical overs, from No. 17-19.

SAEED AJMAL: Very competitive, with so much variety. Has, over the years, been making so much of a difference. In T20s, word is that it’s easy to hit off spinners. Well, try hitting him.

CHRIS GAYLE: A match-winner... Can dominate at will and leave the opposition flummoxed. The West Indies’ batting is built around him.

VIRAT KOHLI: Technically much more sound than the others, he’s matured into the top batsman around. In time, he could surpass even the great (Sir) Vivian Richards.

UMAR AKMAL: A batsman with so much talent, so much natural ability... But he needs to learn not to throw it all away and to take his team home. He must prove that he has the maturity to complement talent.

Mitchell Johnson has had to be withdrawn because of an injury. That’s a big blow to Australia...

I don’t look at individuals only... I could say India’s without Virender Sehwag... The selectors are expected to pick the best available... Jo hai aap uski baat karo, jo nahin hai uski baat rehne do.

To talk of captains, will you be tracking any one of them with more interest?

Nobody in particular. T20 is rather new and captains are learning how to deal with the challenges of this format. Compared to the two older ones, T20 is a baby. Captains are still working out the perfect combination, or the combination closest to being the right one.

Given that so much happens in such a short span, isn’t there enormous pressure on captains?

Depends on how they handle the nerves.

Does a naturally calm Dhoni enjoy an advantage?

Being calm could be an advantage. Equally, in T20s, it could be a disadvantage. There are times when you have to be aggressive and expressive, when you have to take the initiative, not wait for things to happen. So much is compressed in 20 overs, that if a captain waits for something, then the match could slip out of his grasp. How a captain reacts to situations is important.

The luck bit is there as well...

Of course. Dhoni got the credit for a great 20th over from Joginder Sharma in the 2007 World T20 final, but it would have been different had Pakistan won... Twentyeight years have gone by, but people still criticise me for giving the 50th over to Chetan Sharma in the Austral-Asia Cup final against Pakistan... But what if we’d won? Moves have to click.

What’s the role coaches play in T20?

Generally speaking, in the next 10 years, I see cricket going the soccer way... I see coaches becoming more important, perhaps sending messages before the start of each over.

Then what will a captain do?

Captains will lead on the field, but I definitely see a much bigger role for the coaches.

But if the coach will give directions before every over, then the players will lose the freedom to express themselves...

Even today, they’ve first got to be a team man. They have to play for the team. There’s a restraint on them.

The final one... Any advice for Dhoni?

(Smiles) I’ll wish him good luck, that’s it.