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|September 1, 1998||
The Rediff Cricket Interview / Kapil Dev
'I don't have an opening batsman, I don't have a fast bowler, I don't have an all-rounder... You think like this and you are telling yourself you can't win'
Another thing that is often spoken of is that since you left the scene, we haven't had a quality all-rounder -- is that likely to affect team balance?
What is this team balance everyone is talking about? Is it like some formula, to be perfect? In 1983, everyone was an all rounder, there was me and Jimmy (Amarnath) and Madipa (Madan Lal) and Ravi (Shastri) and Roger (Binny). That is already half the side. So can you call that a balanced side? But it was still good enough to win the Cup... So why are we always talking of balance?'
You mean we don't need an all-rounder?
I mean (a touch of exasperation here) that if you want to do something, achieve something, you can't be thinking all the time of what you don't have... I don't have an opening batsman, I don't have a fast bowler, I don't have an all-rounder... You think like this and you are telling yourself you can't win. You have to see what you have, and then plan how to use it the best way you can, that is how to win games. Not this business of 'we don't have an all-rounder so we are not a balanced team!
Okay, so what is your personal assessment of the side as it is today?
Excellent. Azhar, Sachin, Saurav, Rahul, all these boys are very good batsmen, among the best in the world. We have good wicketkeepers in Nayan (Mongia) and that other boy, Saba Karim. And we have very good bowlers -- I think the combination of Srinath, Prasad and Agarkar is among the best in the world today. So overall, it is a very good side. And besides, they have started believing in themselves -- look at the way they set up a world record to win in Dhaka.
Earlier, when we had that kind of target to chase we would have collapsed. But in that match, though the light was bad and conditions were not good, they stuck it out and they beat Pakistan, though everyone says we choke against that team. So now the boys have started believing that they are equal to the best, and that is very important.
I notice in that assessment, there is no room for spinners...
Well, there are some bright young boys, Harbhajan, Rahul Sanghvi, players like that...
But no Bedi, Prasanna, Venkat...
I told you already, we have to stop thinking of what we don't have. So what if we don't have spinners like those today? Does the West Indies have a Lloyd, Richards, Marshall, Holding, Garner...? We have good bowlers, we have to stop comparing them with others, learn to use them well, that is all...
Earlier, you talked of Srinath, Prasad and Agarkar as being one of the best combinations in the world. What is your assessment of Agarkar? It is said there is a bit of a problem with his action...
Who says? (It is more demand than question -- curt, peremptory...)
Well, Dennis Lillee has talked of his being a little too side on for his own good, that he could run the risk of injury...
Have you seen his performance? Seen the way he keeps picking up wickets? He is really quick, he gets good bounce even on dead wickets, moves the ball well. Also, he is young, he has no fear in the mind and that is very important. Now he has to learn, improve, pick up the tricks of the trade... but I think he is one of the brightest prospects I have seen in a long time.
And the injury factor?
Well, a bowler is in the best position to say if he is running a risk. When I started bowling, they said I was very side on, that the way I jumped at the point of delivery, I was risking heel injury, but I have one of the best records of fitness among cricketers of my time. Not just Indian cricketers but all over... So who is to decide what is right for me? If Agarkar, when he is bowling, he feels a problem, a bit of strain somewhere or something like that, he should assess it, approach his coach, take expert advice. And, if he needs to, then he can modify his action... As it is, he is a natural, and you shouldn't go tinkering with him.
You've been a great supporter of Siva (Laxman Sivaramakrishnan) in the past -- and today, he is the unofficial 23rd member in the camp here (Siva actually was included in the Ajay Jadeja XI in the practise game, which we watch as we speak). Do you think his coming back is a good thing?
Well, there is no doubt that before, Siva was one of the best leg spinners in the game. I haven't seen him bowl lately, so I can't comment about his form just now but if he is bowling well, if the coach and selectors think he is back in form and will be useful for the side, then sure, why not?
Mail Prem Panicker
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