Dubai: The debate over ‘greatest’ tag among the four master allrounders of cricket who plied their trade around the same time - Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee had been an eternal favourite for the game’s lovers. There could never be a definitive solution, but Kapil, the man who took the sport into every Indian household with the 1983 World Cup win believes each of their quartet were blessed with unique qualities.
Keeping Botham a notch ahead of the others because of his allround abilities, Kapil said: ‘‘He (Botham) could win a match on his own either through his batting or bowling. In fact, I developed this competitive spirit in me to do one better than him during our England tour of 1982 when I was fortunate enough to end up as the Man of the Series.’’
Speaking in a no-holds-barred chat with former Indian opener Woorkeri Raman in the latter’s youtube channel ‘Inside Out,’ where he dealt with a wide range of subjects from the Class of ‘83 to the batsmen he would pay to watch, Kapil rated Sir Richard the best among them in terms of bowling. ‘‘He was a like a computer,’’ the legend said,
Getting candid about Imran Khan, former Pakistan captain and now Prime Minister of his country, Kapil felt his initial impressions about Imran’s bowling was not really extraordinary. ‘‘He, however, was a very hardworking bowler who worked on his batting also to serve the team. I would rate him higher as a captain for the way he handled some of the notorious players in his team. I was possibly fitter and more athletic than all three,’’ said Kapil.
The search for a successor to Kapil Dev in Indian cricket - much like for Botham in England (till a certain Ben Stokes came along) - had been an elusive one even more than 25 years after his retirement. Agreeing to Raman’s suggestion that he did not often take his batting seriously, Kapil said: ‘‘Yes, I agree that I could have possibly scored another 2000 runs or may be more – but those days there was nobody to really guide me.’’
Who are the cricketers whom Kapil would pay to watch? It was quite an eclectic mix from Kapil paaji: ‘‘Well, I would like to pay to watch Sachin (Tendulkar), especially his early phase, Virender Sehwag, M.S.Dhoni in the last 10 overs of a ODI and Harbhajan Singh in full flight. If I have to sit down and quietly enjoy a Test match – it would be both Sunil (Gavaskar) and Vishy (G.R.Vishwanath). I would also go for Mohinder Amarnath’s two series against Pakistan West Indies, where he was simply superb.’’
While cricket fans have marvelled at the resilience of Tendulkar and his hunger for runs, Kapil had an interesting observation about him that he often did not find the Little Master ‘ruthless’ enough. ‘‘Sachin was born in an era where he knew how to score a 100, but he was not ruthless enough to push for the next 100 quickly. To my mind, he should have made at least five three hundreds and 10 double centuries. I consider Sehwag an amazing batsman in this area, who believed in increasing his tempo after getting a century,’’ he noted.
Finally, who according to him, had been the best Indian captain? ‘‘You see, I believe a captain is as good as his team. If you had given Sir Clive Lloyd the Zimbabwe team or Bangladesh to Steve Waugh, could they have achieved what they did? This is where I would rate Sunil very highly because he did very well despite not having the resources. I would also commend Arjuna Ranatunga for the way he made world champions of out of a small nation - and possibly Sourav Ganguly.
‘‘If I were to make an all-time great Indian XI, then I would have to pick 80% of the players who played under Ganguly. Hence, leading them was not easy. However, I feel If Sunil had a team like that of today, he could have done wonders,’’ he concluded.
Kapil Dev and the ‘83 connection
Kapil Dev reserved high words of praise for Ranveer Singh, the Bollywood actor who has played the Indian captain’s role in ‘83,’ the Hindi film which attempted to fictionalise the Indian team’s memorable World Cup triumph in England in 1983. Lauding Ranveer’s dedication and professionalism in preparing himself for the role, Kapil said: ‘‘He practised batting for sometime upto eight hours in Delhi heat, may be three hours for bowling and fielding. I was worried that he should not hurt himself and he has done a very good job.’’
The film, which was originally scheduled for a release in April, is still waiting to hit the theatres due to the pandemic.
Looking back at what would rate as arguably India’s greatest cricketing achievement ever, Kapil said: ‘‘Yes, it does sink in now that winning the trophy was a critical point in the history of Indian cricket. The impact of winning it helped cricket spread in smaller parts of the country - as till then it was played in pockets like Mumbai, Madras (yes, that’s how he prefers it) or a little bit in New Delhi.’’