Kapil Dev, India’s former captain and world-class allrounder, looks back on his epic rearguard effort against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup, his own record, and the premier other allrounders of his era. Also, he thinks Sachin Tendulkar could and should have had many more runs to his name. Here’s Dev*, on Inside Out, a podcast hosted by former India batsman WV Raman.
On his 175 not out at Tunbridge Wells against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup: ‘All my life I’ve only had a Plan A – to win the match’
Kapil Dev: “When you’re 9 for 4, you’re shattered inside, but coming from a resilient background, I had the heart to fight back. I went in and asked Yash [Yashpal Sharma] what the matter was. He said, ‘Bas aa rahein hain, aur ja rahein hain [The batters are arriving and departing way too quickly]. We’re inexplicably getting caught behind.’ And then soon after, Yash himself got out and in came Roger Binny. I asked him to play the full over and stay at the wicket and not go for runs, assuring him we would [eventually] get the runs, and we soon were able to stitch together a partnership.
“In cricket, when you plan, you should always only have a Plan A; Plan B or Plan C are weak people’s options”
“That 175 [not out] I made against Zimbabwe – it was all about those last seven overs [and my partnership with Syed Kirmani]. Before that, we were a bit intimidated in that we had taken a face-saving approach because earlier in the tournament we had defeated West Indies and Australia and were feeling on top of the world, but suddenly we were struggling so badly against Zimbabwe.
“In cricket, when you plan, you should always only have a Plan A; Plan B or Plan C are weak people’s options. That’s because only when you have just one plan drawn up, you know that’s exactly what you want and have to do. And all my life I’ve only had a Plan A and it has always been to win the match. So when batting with Kiri, who was much senior to me, he said, ‘Kapil pa, if there’s a run-out opportunity [for Zimbabwe], you shouldn’t lose your wicket.’ That gave us the strength of team spirit, and I said, ‘This is what we were looking for.’ The rest is history.”
A comparison between Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag: ‘To Sachin, I used to say, “You must watch Sehwag”‘
“Sachin had so much talent, we hadn’t seen it in anyone. He was born in an era where he knew how to score hundreds but he never became a ruthless batsman. Sachin had everything in cricket. He knew how to score hundreds but didn’t know how to convert those hundreds into double-hundreds and triple-hundreds. Sachin had the talent to make at least five triple-centuries and another 10 double-hundreds because he could hit fast bowlers and spinners for a six or a four every over. However, he got caught up in the Mumbai cricket [mindset]: when you score a hundred, make a line and start from zero again. And that’s where I said no, you are such a ruthless cricketer, be like Virender Sehwag.
“I used to tell Sehwag to be like Sachin: you have so many shots in your armoury that if you wait for 30-odd minutes, you will get to a hundred. To Sachin, I used to say, ‘You must watch Virender Sehwag’, who, upon reaching a ton would aim for at least one boundary an over if not two. So in the next 20 overs, he was close to his double-hundred. That was the difference. At times, you don’t have people around you to point things out to you and, at times, you are not aware of your own strength. Sachin’s strength was par excellence and incomparable, but after reaching a century, he would often take a single and get off strike.”
“He knew how to score hundreds but didn’t know how to convert those hundreds into double-hundreds and triple-hundreds”
On Sachin Tendulkar
Hadlee v Imran v Botham v Kapil: Who was the best allrounder of his time?
“The best bowling was Richard Hadlee‘s – he was like a computer among the four of us. I wouldn’t say Imran Khan was the best athlete or the most natural, but he was the most hardworking player we’ve seen. When he started out, he looked like an ordinary bowler, but then he became a very hardworking fast bowler and he learned by himself. And then he worked on his batting as well.
“Ian Botham was a true allrounder – in given conditions, he could win a match on his own. I wouldn’t say Hadlee was the best batsman. Botham could do damage to the opposition both with bat [and ball]. Imran could run through the [opposition] team, but his ability as a leader was far better. To control the Pakistan team he had was a challenge.
“I wouldn’t say I was the greatest, but I was a better athlete than all three put together.”
On having issues with outswing late in his career: ‘Things start changing once you turn 30’
“With time, your body starts changing, your injuries, shoulder, knees – your body starts adjusting accordingly. When you’re young, around 18-20 years old, your natural ability comes to the fore. In the ’90s, I was no longer a young boy and was getting on the wrong side of my cricketing career, so the outswing probably started waning and because I [had] started working on incoming deliveries more than I was thinking about outswing. I feel I can bowl outswingers even today. But, yes, things start changing once you turn 30.
“I wouldn’t say I was the greatest, but I was a better athlete than all three put together”
Kapil Dev on how he compares to Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee
“My non-bowling arm started going inside instead of backwards and it should have also come much straighter. So when I studied my action [before the 1991-92 tour of Australia where Dev finished top of the wickets charts for India], I realised my arm was falling a bit, which gradually led to less outswing. You have to have that arm tight and hard. Though it’s not your bowling arm – the left arm [of a right-arm bowler] – it has to be equally strong. If the left arm becomes weak, your right arm will also become weak. So I worked on that and once I got back my rhythm, I got my outswing back because I was naturally an outswinger bowler.”
On his batting: With guidance, I could have scored more than another 2000 runs
“Looking back, that tally [of 5248 in Tests] could have been much more. Back in the day, we didn’t get the kind of guidance that’s available to the current generation – video analysis and other such useful aids. It’s easy to resort to hindsight and make assessments about could-have-beens in one’s career, but I do admit that my colleagues were right, and I, too, am critiquing my own career here: if I had more time and thought in my game, I would have scored more than another 2000 runs.”
*This is an edited version of Dev’s conversation with Raman. For the full conversation, click here.