Comparing the subcontinent’s cricket giants to the Ambani siblings, Kapil Dev Nikhanj, the first Indian cricket captain to lift the World Cup, says the zero-win record against India at the World Cup, may be playing on the minds of Pakistani players. Excerpts from an interview:
As a teenager, you bowled bouncers at them on your debut against the team in 1978. Why are most Indian cricketers so competitive while playing against Pakistan?
It isn’t just the conflicted history that we share which brings out the competitive edge while playing against Pakistan. I think India and Pakistan are like two brothers who have been separated.
That is why there is always a feeling that one should not end up one-less to the other. Whether it is the Ambani brothers or the two rival nations of the subcontinent, that sibling rivalry is always at the back of our minds. India and Pakistan may have fought wars against each other, but we were also together for a long time.
At one point, losing to Pakistan was almost sacrilegious for any Indian cricket team. If you did well against them, you became a hero but the opposite was also true. How has it changed over the years?
I don’t think it has changed too much over all these years. When Javed Miandad hit that six off the last ball in Sharjah, and we lost to Pakistan, it stayed in our minds for a long time.
After that, for many years, we didn’t play too much cricket with Pakistan, not as frequently as the team does now. At the World Cup and in the bigger tournaments, since the Pakistan team hasn’t done well against the Indian team, it must be bothering them the same way it bothered us.
The team has always emerged triumphant against Pakistan at the World Cup and even at the World T20 finals. With so much hype surrounding our opening match at Adelaide, do you think India will keep that record intact?
I think there is a legacy of past record, but it can only play a role to an extent. Also, our team these days is better than our rivals from across the border. In my opinion, in our time, the Pakistan team was better than the present lot. Some of their batsmen such as Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq did particularly well against us.
Since the time Sourav Ganguly took over, India became a better team than Pakistan man-to-man. Under Sourav, we became the best team in the world at that time. Today, we have a good team and an experienced World Cup-winning captain in MS Dhoni. Having said that, there’s still added tension while playing against Pakistan that you cannot simply wish away.
Whichever team can hold their nerve better on that day may emerge triumphant at Adelaide. It doesn’t matter that we’ve always beaten them in World Cup matches. It could still be a very close game.
Both Imran Khan and you led your teams to victory in World Cups. At one point, you were both vying for the encomium of the best all-rounder in the world. What kind of relationship do you share with him?
Oh, Imran and I have always enjoyed a mutual healthy respect for each other off the field as well as a healthy rivalry on it! On the field, each one of us wanted to compete and play better than the other, but we were good friends, once the match was over. But the media won’t see it that way. Imran was a fabulous cricketer and a great leader. The way he carried out the task of controlling a bunch of very talented but inconsistent Pakistani cricketers was fabulously good.
Whether it was Imran, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis or Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan produced quick bowlers in a bunch. Did you feel sad that you had to shoulder the quick bowling burden on this side?
I’ve always looked forward to shouldering that burden. If Pakistan could boast an array of bowlers who took the legacy of swing bowling forward – people like Imran Wasim, Waqar and Shoaib – they never had the great batsmen that we have had: Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.
Is there a particular performance against Pakistan – where you scored a century or took a five-for against them – that you cherish the most?
All that is history. My time has gone. I really don’t want to discuss my own performance. Now, we should talk about what the young cricketers of India are doing.
As a former World Cup captain and present-, which team do you think will win theday commentator ICC World Cup 2015?
Now that I am not playing on the field out there, I don’t make predictions. I just like to watch and enjoy the gentleman’s game.
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From HT Brunch, February 15
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