Calcutta: World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev, whose Indian Cricket League (ICL) takes off on Friday, needs no introduction. The other day, he took time off to speak to The Telegraph at some length about India-Pakistan face-offs. Kapilís own debut was versus Pakistan, 29 years ago.
The following are excerpts
Q Having made your debut against Pakistan, what are your emotions when an India versus Pakistan contest is on'
A One is more involved because the man on the street is more involved... Itís with good reason that many see an Indo-Pak series as being bigger than the Ashes.
Do you also see it that way'
(Grins) In this part of the world, itís bigger than anything. If itís not treated so elsewhere, itís because the Boards havenít done a good job of projecting an Indo-Pak series. Thereís so much of history which needs to be put forward in the right manner. If you want my view, and Iím not saying this because Iím with the ICL, you need former cricketers to be involved... Nobody will understand history and tradition better than them. Why' Because theyíve been part of it. Sadly, in the subcontinent, itís not the cricket heroes but others whoíre given greater weightage. Itís so sad, for example, that (Gundappa) Viswanath lost the elections in Karnataka.
Have you sensed a change in mood'
Generally, yes, the atmosphere has changed... For example, Iíd never imagined crowds in Pakistan would cheer the Indian cricketers, but that happened on the 2003-04 tour... Couldnít imagine that (Laxmipathy) Balaji would become such a big hit with the crowds there. Yet, that too happened on the same tour... I also couldnít imagine that Pakistanis would have the Tricolour painted on one cheek... Today, the relationship between teams is also better... Thereís no hostility, the kind seen during my time. Thereís intense competition, yes, but nothing uncivil.
Some 24 hours after landing in India, captain Shoaib Malik visited Virender Sehwag to offer his condolences on the passing away of the senior proís father...
(Interrupting) Malik made a lovely gesture and the media did the right thing by highlighting that visit.
To go back to your debut, do you recall your thoughts on the morning of October 16, 1978Ö
What I do remember is that I didnít sleep the previous night... Iíd been told by the manager (late Fatehsinh Rao Gaekwad) that Iíd be making my debut and the excitement and tension got the better of me... Iím not sure about now but, in those days, it was a tradition for somebody about to make his debut to say something at the pre-match team meeting... Canít exactly recall what I said, but I remember speaking in a mix of Hindi and Punjabi.
Having had a sleepless night, wasnít focusing a problem'
Nahin... The excitement took care of everything... It was the realisation of a dream...
What did you tell yourself when you reached the top of your mark for the first time in Test cricket'
I had to bowl to Majid Khan, somebody Iíd grown to admire for his performances in the West Indies a couple of seasons earlier (an awesome 530 runs in five Tests)... I became conscious that Iíd be bowling to a great opener...
Whatís your message for players who debut against Pakistan'
A debut is a debut but, yes, thereís definitely more pressure when itís versus Pakistan... My advice is simple: Back yourself and donít allow the occasion to get the better of you... Rather, get the excitement to lift your performance.
Whatís the one stand-out memory from that first tour'
The way Pakistan chased 160-plus in under 25 overs in the Karachi Test... Then, my getting runs as the nightwatchman in Lahore... Pehle tour ki memories kabhi jati nahin hain.
Didnít Javed Miandad or Sarfraz Nawaz try to needle you'
Sarfraz did, in the Karachi Test... I paid him back in his own coin... Thatís the first time I retaliated... Sarfraz and the rest probably didnít expect a rookie to respond in their language... In fact, when I let go a series of bouncers in that Test, Pakistan skipper Mushtaq Mohammed told my captain (Bishan Singh Bedi) that heíd finally got a Ďmaní in his team. I was on cloud nine when Bishan relayed that to me... Praise from the opposition is, after all, so much more sweeter.
The one Indo-Pak Test which you havenít forgottenÖ
At the Chepauk in early 1999... Sachin Tendulkar played one of the greatest knocks (136 in the second innings), but we lost narrowly (by 12 runs)... Both teams were on their toes right through the match... Also, the one at the Kotla, some weeks later, when Anil Kumble got all ten wickets in the second innings... I suppose the one in Karachi too, on my debut tour, which was won by Pakistan... The Pakistani batsmen treated the Test like a one-dayer...
The 1986 Austral-Asia Cup final when Miandad hit Chetan Sharma for a last-ball six... Then the previous yearís Rothmans Cup in Sharjah, where we defended 125, bowling out Pakistan for 87. Also, winning the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket, defeating Pakistan by eight wickets in the final at the MCG.
The final one: Who is the one Pakistan cricketer youíve admired more than the others'
Pakistan has produced a number of stalwarts... Imran Khan and Miandad, Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul Haq but, for me, nobody has been bigger than Wasim Akram... An absolute great.
India have won 8 and lost 8 of their 34 Test matches at the Eden so far with the rest (18) ending in draws. Pakistan have drawn 4 of their six matches here, winning one and losing the other. The following are the highs and lows:
Highest total — 657/7 decl. by Ind vs Aus (2000-01)
Highest total for Pak — 393 vs Ind (2004-05)
Lowest total — 90 by Ind vs WI (1983-84)
Lowest total for Pak — 185 vs Ind (1998-99)
Centuries — 55 (24 by Indians; 3 by Pakistanis)
Highest score — 281 by V.V.S. Laxman vs Aus (2000-01)
Highest score for Pak — 188* by Saeed Anwar (1998-99)
Most runs 860 @ 107.50 in 7 matches by Mohammed Azharuddin (Ind)
Best bowling in an innings — 8/64 by Lance Klusener (SA), 1996-97
Best bowling in an innings for Ind — 8/86 by Jawagal Srinath vs Pak (1998-99)
Best bowling in an innings for Pak — 5/26 by Fazal Mahmood (1960-61)
Best bowling in a match — 13/132 by Jawagal Srinath (Ind) vs Pak (1998-99)
Best bowling in a match for Pak — 9/130 by Imran Khan (1979-80)
Most wickets — 35 @ 29.66 in 7 matches by Anil Kumble (Ind)