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July 1, 1999
Country first, cricket next, says Kapil
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev has rejected Pakistan cricket player Rameez Raza's suggestion that the Indian cricketers should not mix politics with cricket. After a trip to base hospital in Srinagar, along with Ajay Jadeja, the ex-skipper suggested that till the Kargil crisis was over, India should not play any cricket match against Pakistan.
In an interview to rediff.com, Kapil Dev said he does not agree with Rameez's views. "I have seen the statements attributed to him and I would like to ask him one simple question: what would he have done in my shoes?" Kapil said with a wave of his hand.
"I have been playing cricket for a long time now and never before have I made a statement like this. But when I met the injured soldiers and when I talked to them along with Ajay, they all pleaded 'please do not lose a cricket match to Pakistan'. I could not hold my tears back. When they feel so emotionally about the issue and think losing a game of cricket to Pakistan means a defeat for them, then I would rather not play cricket with Pakistan while the battle is on in Kargil," Kapil Dev added.
The former Indian captain is convinced that his statement was in no way a kneejerk reaction. "I gave ample thought to it before reaching this conclusion. I say India should not play against Pakistan in the Sahara Cup, and I am sure the Sahara management will agree with me. I was not in India when the World Cup was being played but once I came back home I saw pictures of the officers and jawans doing battle with Pakistanis in Kargil, I was moved so much that I decided to go and visit the injured jawans. I asked Jadeja and he promptly agreed to go with me. He even got a yes from Sachin Tendulkar, but for some reasons Sachin could not make it to Srinagar in time," he explained.
Kapil is now busy organizing a series of cricket matches between the Indian Cricket XI and a Film Stars XI. "The first match will be held in Delhi on July 11. I have already contacted people like Nana Patekar, Govinda, Sanjay Dutt, Shahrukh Khan and they have all agreed. Some of them have already cancelled their appointments to make sure they are in Delhi well in time for the match. All the cricketers, former and present, have also responded positively. We will play similar matches in other cities as well. The basic purpose behind organizing these matches is to raise funds for our defence forces," he said.
While this correspondent was talking to the cricketing legend, another cricket hero of yesteryear, Bishan Singh Bedi dropped in. "Though I fully support the stand taken by Kapil and support him in his fund-raising campaigns, I differ with him on some matters. But this can be sorted out later and at the moment all cricketers and sport personalities are solidly behind Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his hour of crisis," Bedi said.
Another former cricketer, and the erstwhile 'prince' among batsmen, Salim Durrani, fully endorsed Kapil's call to not play cricket while the Kargil battle is on. "The nation is first and everything else comes later. When the nation is fighting a battle with the enemy no right-thinking person should think of playing any game with Pakistan," Durrani told rediff.com.
Kapil made it clear that if need be he would visit the injured jawans all over again. "In fact, I am thinking of getting the entire 1983 World Cup team to visit the border and meet with the officers and jawans to boost their morale. And I am sure not one of them will refuse, even if it means going at their own expense."
When asked what he would do with the funds raised through organizing matches, Kapil said he would set up a committee to look into this aspect. " I don't want them to wait for years for the money to reach them. The families of those who laid down their lives while defending the country will be in need of financial help. And this must come forthwith."
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