He was the first mega star of Indian cricket and his presence had come as a breath of fresh air in a game that had only seen players from the big cities. He was a player focused on producing that impeccable out swinger to get the outside edge of the bat rather than fret about speaking impeccable English.
But Kapil Dev recalled that when he was appointed as captain of the Indian team, there were those who were more worried he may not be able to speak in English. "I was told I had a Punjabi accent! I told them they should then bring someone from Oxford University to play."
Regaling the audience with anecdotes and typically sharp views during a discussion on cricket at the 10th annual Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on "Spreading the Passion", the World Cup winning skipper said Indian cricket's future lay in the hands of small town youngsters hungrier to have international careers than their counterparts in the metros, who struggle to cope with studies and the travel time between home, school and the training ground.
Including Dev, the other players on the panel - Ajay Jadeja, who played in the 1990s, and current star Suresh Raina - represented three generations of cricket on the dais with Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN guiding the lively debate.
With the amount of cricket played today, Raina felt it won't be a bad idea to have different set of players for the Twenty20, One-day and Test teams but pointed out that India possessed players good to feature in all three formats. He dismissed talk that big bucks in the Indian Premier League (IPL) were undermining Test cricket. "I want to re-establish myself as a regular Test player. You can earn money, but only as a consistent (Test) player will you earn the respect of every fan."
Jadeja, also a former India skipper, pointed out that T20, instead of being seen as a format that could wipe out Tests, should be seen as the stepping stone with the five-day game the ultimate destination. While Kapil felt better marketing, and not day-night cricket, would keep Tests relevant.
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