How do you look back at the 1983 World Cup win?
I think we are getting a lot of dividend from it even today (laughs). When I look back, I really wonder: Did we really play that good cricket and achieve an impossible feat? Today, pressure and competition have increased a thousand times. There is television, money…
You mean, you had no pressure then?
I feel today’s players have a lot more pressure. When you think your son is going to pass with 30-40% marks, your expectations are low but when he suddenly gets 92% marks, your expectations grow. I think we set the standard for succeeding generations, which is not easy to match. In the last 10 years the game has got so commercialised... in our time we had one manager and he did everything, from distributing tickets to distributing daily allowance. Today, there are professionals for everything and players even have their own management teams. So, there is bound to be a lot more pressure.
Has it become more difficult today?
Unlike now, no one on the street was saying ‘Kapil you have to win’. Today, players may say, ‘I don’t read the paper… I don’t see the news’, but the reality is different. I have seen 100s of interviews and write-ups saying: ‘Sachin’s dream is to win the World Cup’. I don’t know what his dream is but when we put it across like this, we put a lot of pressure on him.
So, it was far easier in that sense for you to win the World Cup.
You see, nobody gave us a chance even after we had won a couple of matches. The pressure began when we came close to reaching the semifinal. Before that we were enjoying our cricket but all of a sudden everybody started asking if we can win…
Did that pressure lift the team?
I think it lifted the team. Also, when you start winning, when you do well, things go your way and you start thinking everything is so easy. We became a team to reckon with. Before ’83, we never had a team that could reach the semifinals. But I think a couple of things happened during the tournament that made us believe that we could do it.
People talk about my innings against Zimbabwe. But it wasn’t just about that. That match gave us the confidence that if we can come back from that position, we can even win the tournament. Our self-belief increased every day.
People forget that India had beaten the West Indies even before the World Cup final — in the West Indies and in the opening match of the World Cup...
Yes, we beat them in their home. The fact that no other team had done that gave us hope. They were unbeatable and ruthless at the time. They had genuine fast bowlers. Never before did a team have five-six fast bowlers at one given time. And then, they had players like Viv Richards, Greenidge, Haynes and Lloyd. When you beat a team like that in front of their own crowd and umpires, you think it was a fluke. But then it was a great fluke. It acted as a great motivator. We talked about it in our team meeting. And when we beat them in the opening match of the World Cup, we knew we had the team to do well.
As a captain what was your role?
I was too young. Even though we won, I feel they shouldn’t have made me the captain. Personally I feel Sunil (Gavaskar) should have been the captain. Today, I don’t have to say things to please or upset anybody but the fact is that I was just 23 then. Whatever the politics of the board, no kid would say no to leading a side because that’s his dream.
But you handled it well.
I think, yes. I didn’t have the outlook of a person from a big city. I think my strength was that I was very direct and honest. I never tried to play games with my players. I didn’t have a close friend who I had to please. Coming from a small town, I had no favourites and I wasn’t afraid to say things. I think the rest of the team realised that. I would have done things differently if I had the brains I have today. I was so raw and so straight. When I look back … I think it was the right approach.
That is why I give a lot of credit to Dhoni. He too comes from a small town and he has made his colleagues his friends.
They respected you?
I don’t know… I can’t answer that but then again when you are leading from the front… they have no other option but to listen to you.
Did you have a strategy to win the World Cup?
I think if I ever want to give credit to anything it has to be our self belief. One of my biggest successes was to make them feel that we can do it. And if I was overawed by any big cricketer it was only off the field… not on it. On the field I was more harsh and tough than off it. I would try to get the best out of each player and according to his ability.
I knew Balwinder Sandhu and Madan Lal had the ability to move the ball. I told them not to get excited by the lively pitch and start bowling short.
My trump card in the World Cup was Roger Binny and all I said to him was: ‘Roger just bowl up… pitch up’. If I had a bowler like Javagal Srinath, of his pace, I would have told him to do whatever he liked.
What changed for you and Indian cricket after the World Cup win?
You can’t see the difference overnight but we started believing in ourselves. The worst thing to happen to us after the World Cup was that West Indies came to India and thrashed us as they were a far better team. I believe, and it holds true for now as well that India can beat any team if we play on seaming tracks. We have the best bowlers for tracks like those and we have technically very sound batsmen.
But on flat tracks, on tracks like Sharjah, which are full of runs, we can lose to teams like Sri Lanka.
What about Indian pitches then? They too are flat. Won’t it affect our chances?
Sure, but our biggest advantage is that we have batsmen with a ruthless approach. We have the ability to chase down 300-plus scores. Men like Dhoni, Sehwag, Sachin, Gambhir and Yuvi can deliver on their own.
How much has cricket changed because of pressure and money involved and how will it affect our chances?
I can’t answer that because I am not with the team. But yes, pressure has increased tremendously because you know if you don’t play well you lose in crores and if you win you win in crores.
People may say that no, it is not like that and my passion is for the country, but at the end of the day your passion and all other things depend on how you perform.
Your favourites apart from India?
Lanka has a great chance. SA, definitely on paper. England have shown progress. I can’t judge Pakistan. Though they are always ruthless and have done well individually, they do not play like a team, which is unfortunate.
What would be your advice to the team?
Dhoni is the key person. I think he should not be captain cool but should be captain hard. When you are playing in India, there will be a lot of distractions but as a captain and manager you should ask for total commitment for these 45 days. I know a few individuals can lose a few commercial deals, but if a captain can sacrifice these 45 days…he can do big things for the nation. In India we all look up to the captain for inspiration.
This World Cup is being held under the shadow of T20 cricket’s popularity and many fear ODIs may not survive.
I don’t think so. If you look back a lot of people said that ODIs will kill Tests but that has not happened. World Cup and the ODIs have a rich history and are here to stay. But I do think the ICC and the cricket boards should not focus on money alone. They should take care of the cricketing aspect as well.
Do you think IPL is a threat?
No. When there are 50,000 people watching a one-dayer how can there be a threat? But we have to also realise that excess of anything is harmful and it will affect the overall health of the game. But these things will be better understood and implemented by the players if they become, or I would say are allowed to become administrators, and not by businessmen. I am not against businessmen but they only tend to look at the business side of the sport.