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September 1, 1998


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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Kapil Dev

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'What is required is self-belief... You should be ready to listen, to be strong to acknowledge what your weakness is, and learn, improve...'

Kapil Dev Kapil Dev Nikhanj has star value.

That much is obvious, barely minutes after he sets foot inside the M A Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai, on Tuesday morning.

Till that point in time, the attention of the audience -- a good five-six thousand cricket junkies scattered through the stands -- is on the action in the middle. Where the Indian probables have been split into two teams, one led by Mohammad Azharuddin, the other by Ajay Jadeja, for a serious-as-hell practice match of 40 overs a side.

When Dev arrives, Sachin Tendulkar is in the process of clouting Venkatesh Prasad and Javagal Srinath -- the latter bowling at flat out pace, the former moving the ball around off the seam as is his wont -- all over the park, like he was facing a couple of club bowlers in the nets.

But within minutes, the atmosphere changes, as does the focus. "Kapil" is all you hear -- in shrill tones from the stands furthest from the pavilion, in hushed whispers in the pavilion and surrounding enclosure. Not even the probables are exempt -- there is awe in the way they approach him, shake his hand, exchange a few words... and when he leaves V V S Laxman and walks on to the next guy, Laxman's head turns as on a swivel, following the big man's progress.

Just around then, Sachin suffers one of his usual bouts of overexuberance, mistimes a pull at a not-so-short one from Srinath and, off the top edge, holes out to square leg. He strides up the steps and into the dressing room and, minutes later, Kapil follows.

The two emerge after an hour and a bit.

Dev -- ever a performer -- then agrees to an impromptu media conference, for the benefit of the television crews (and some print journalists) gathered around. "Here? You want to do it here?" he asks, perching good-naturedly on the metal railings of the pavilion. "I thought you might want to do it out on that beautiful ground," he grins, then fields questions with aplomb.

A rather reluctant communicator in his playing days, Kapil appears much more at home with the media now, answering questions in crisp fashion, essaying the odd quip when a particular question seems, to him, not quite on par.

The all-rounder then gave Prem Panicker a few minutes for a private interview.

Your being here, Kapil, is this part of the Board's initiative to get former Test stars actively involved in the World Cup preparations?

I don't know if there is any initiative as such. I was asked, by the Board and more importantly by Anshu (coach Anshuman Gaikwad) if I would spend some time here with the boys, so I came down.

How long are you here, in the camp?

players at the coaching camp The whole day today, and I am taking the early morning flight back tomorrow.

That's it, just one day?

They asked me to spend a day here, so I am here, what more can I do?

(There is a pause) I am not here to coach them -- there are already two coaches, and that is more than enough. You can't have too many people instructing the boys, it will confuse them. I'll meet them after this practise game, chat with them, answer any questions they have, pass on some of my own experiences... that is all I am here to do.

How about the fast bowlers -- wouldn't they benefit from spending some time with you in the nets?

Well, after this match, I am going out on the ground with the boys. So, yes, whatever little I know, I'll pass on to them -- to the fast bowlers particularly.

This kind of camp, how good an idea is it?

I think it is a very good idea. We should have such camps, every two-three weeks, at least once in three months. When you are playing, you can't learn, try new things. All you can do is the same thing over and over again. In these kind of camps, you can work on your shortcomings, you can learn new things, experiment, get it right.

For the first time, an Indian camp has two coaches, in Gaekwad and Bob Simpson, what's your opinion?

Indian coach Anshuman Gaekwad If you are asking for my personal opinion, well, I'm against it, I think there should be only one coach, and he should be a full-time coach, not someone who comes down for a while and then goes away because continuity is very important in coaching. But that's my personal opinion. The Board has decided on this 'two coaches' business and if the boys are happy with it, then what more is there to say?

It's a long way to the World Cup, but there is already so much of hype, speculation about India's chances. What do you, personally, think?

Bob Simpson Well, that is one of the things I will be telling the boys -- that if the team of 1983 could win the Cup against teams like the West Indies with Lloyd and Greenidge and Richards and all those fast bowlers, then this team can win too. They are every bit as talented as our team was. There is no reason, in my mind, why India will not do very well.

But though India has been winning lately, its shortcomings have been in sharp focus...

Like what?

Fielding, running between wickets...

Look, if you take the best batting team in the world, they too will have their weaknesses -- otherwise, wouldn't they win all the time? You mention any team to me, and I will pick out for you a dozen weaknesses. But that is not the point -- these things, like fielding, running between wickets, all these are technical things, they can be learnt and practised.

What is required is self-belief, most importantly. And secondly, you should be ready to listen, to be strong to acknowledge what your weakness is, and learn, improve... If you have that, then all this that you are talking about, fielding, running between wickets, they are all minor things...

The Kapil Dev interview, continued

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