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Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah have bagged six wickets each to guide India to victory in the second Test against South Africa at Cape Town. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Legendary Indian all-rounder Kapil Dev said he felt proud to watch Indian fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah wreak havoc in the second Test against South Africa that helped the visitors seal the second Test and level the series 1-1. Having been a genuine fast bowler himself, Dev could easily relate to what was unfolding in the middle as the pacers hunted in pack to unsettle the Proteas.

“It’s wonderful to see an Indian fast bowler coming out and bowling so well. Mohammed Siraj is not Jasprit Bumrah, who is the leader of the bowling pack. It’s not one bowler, but a group of fast bowlers. When they come out and attack in a group, then it becomes more difficult for the opponents. I feel happy and proud to see an Indian fast bowler is recognised by the world,” said the World Cup-winning captain, whose stunning performances have put Indian cricket on the world map.

Siraj claimed six wickets in the first innings to reduce South Africa to 55, their lowest score in 92 years, while Bumrah finished with a six-wicket haul in the second innings to set a meagre victory target of 79, which the Men in Blue achieved with seven wickets to spare. Mukesh Kumar also chipped in with two wickets each in both innings on a wicket that had plenty of assistance to pace bowlers with swing and bounce. The South African pacers would have exploited the conditions better on such pitches, but in this Test the visitors were on top of their game.

Gavaskar's praise on Kapil Dev

Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar credited Dev for being the role model for fast bowlers for generations now. “All thanks to Kapil Dev. He has shown that in India you don’t necessarily have to be a spin bowler. Even in Indian pitches one can take wicket. Of course, when you play in South Africa, England Australia, New Zealand, you will get lot more assistance as a new ball bowler. Since then India have produced a range of fast bowlers,” Gavaskar said on Star Sports on Wednesday.

“But particularly in the last 10-12 years, thanks to IPL, there are a lot of fast bowlers who have come to the fore. Now India have a bench strength of fast bowlers, which probably is going to be the envy of cricket world. There are left-handers, right-handers, there is so much of talent available if any of these guys want to take a break. You saw when Jasprit Bumrah was not present, how the other Indian bowlers came in and performed, particularly Mohammed Shami. I think this will be a tribute to Kapil Dev,” Gavaskar added.

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Former Indian skipper Kapil Dev, who pioneered the art of fast bowling in India, is elated with the team's performance in South Africa. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Reacting to the Gavaskar’s warm words, Dev said: “I feel humble and very happy that our hero is talking about ourselves. Sunil Gavaskar was everybody’s hero during our time, and if he talks something this way, you feel proud and happy,” added the 64-year-old India’s first World Cup-winning captain.

The star all-rounder will be celebrating his 65th birthday in Dubai when he tees off for the Dubai Sports Council CEO’s Masters 2024, which will take place on the Trump International Golf Course in Damac Hills on Saturday. Over 110 top golfing executives and government representatives from across the UAE will participate in the shotgun tournament, sponsored by Thriwe (gold sponsor) at 1pm start.

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Fighting spirit

Dev, a fighter during his playing days, still has the competitive mindset when he enters the golf course.

“I think once a sportsman is always a sportsman, on a cricket field or on the golf course.

“It’s a wonderful event where you network and play a tournament. I have stopped playing cricket, so golf is my sport now to come out and compete with myself. I like to compete. I just want to go happy after playing better than yesterday. That’s all is what I look for,” said Dev, who at one point held the world record for highest wicket in Tests.

Talking about the surge in fast bowling and the immense talent-pool in the Indian team, Dev, who began his career at an era where the fast bowlers were considered a luxury, hailed the role of the IPL and Indian board for helping the growth of the pacers in the country.

IPL's role in producing pacers

“At the end of the day, if you start getting respect in a team, then you won’t mind working hard. The surge is due to IPL and Indian board’s way of organising cricket. We always have produced quality spinners, but I think if you have to make a team you have to cover all the corners. So I feel happy to see the fast bowlers coming of age, where we can feel proud about them.”

India have managed to win just two 50-over World Cups and the hosts came close to winning the third in 2023, but lost to Australia in the final in Ahmedabad last year after maintaining an unbeaten run. Despite, falling at the final hurdle, Dev refuses to analyse their performance and says India played like champions.

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Indian team members celebrate a wicket during the second Test at Newlands. Image Credit: Source: BCCI Twitter

“After the event, the easiest thing is to talk. I think it’s not right to criticise. The way they played the tournament is more important. They played fantastic. Yes, the final hurdle is very, very important and they couldn’t cross that, but they played like champions,” Dev added.

Hardik Pandya is a good choice

After the loss, the Indian cricket will be looking to move forward to the next World Cup, which means there could be a change in leadership, especially in 50-over format as 36-year-old skipper Rohit Sharma might not be available for the showpiece to be held in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027.

Dev feels Hardik Pandya will be the right choice, if he is fit. The Indian all-rounder Pandya suffered a career-threatening back injury sustained while bowling during the Asia Cup in Dubai in 2018. On return, he was back to his best in both international cricket and in the IPL. However, after another injury to his ankle during the 2023 World Cup, the 30-year-old now faces a long layoff.

“I think it’s not fair for me to talk about that. The most important thing is somebody has to be worthy in the team all the time. Today, due to IPL, they get a lot of experience for captaincy. I wish Pandya was fit enough to play Test cricket. He is the candidate, because you can pick any youngster and give him time to lead the country,” Dev said, and added it is OK for Team India to have multiple captains for different formats.

“Nothing wrong in that. The experiment by other countries have done well. It all depends on what kind of player you have and what kind of a captain you have,” he concluded.