Kapil Dev, a living legend, spoke to The Telegraph for around 45 minutes over breakfast in Kolkata on Saturday. Typically, he was emotional at times and candid always. The following are excerpts
After another defeat, what’s the way forward for Indian cricket?
It’s not for me to offer a prescription... It’s time for the Board to put its head together and correct the things which have gone wrong.
Something has to be wrong for us to lose in England, lose in Australia and lose to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup.
Are you suggesting that the Board should have learnt from Cricket Australia and initiated a full-fledged review?
(Smiles) You’ve answered the question yourself... I don’t need to say it in as many words. Is the Board concerned or not?
Doesn’t look like...
Exactly. You can’t say that defeats happen... Yes, you can lose, but you shouldn’t be losing with such regularity... We should be proud that we’re controlling world cricket, financially, but we must also dominate on the field. That’s important.
The biggest problem is that the Board isn’t professional. Do you agree?
The Board has had some brilliant individuals as its president... Say a Jagmohan Dalmiya, but neither Dalmiya nor anybody before or after him put a system in place... Nobody has had a great team working with him... I have high regard for the current president (Narayanswamy Srinivasan), but is he putting systems in place? No. It’s not healthy if only one person decides everything and is the only one calling the shots. The really good organisations don’t depend on one person, no matter how brilliant he is.
Moving away from the Board, is there a deeper problem, within the team?
Difficult to say from a distance... I’m, after all, not privy to what is going on. But the reality is that we’ve been losing overseas for eight months... I’d like to know what exactly Gary Kirsten did during his three years as coach. If he was so good, he should have put systems in place and the team ought not to have crumbled within months of his departure. We were No.1 in Test cricket and the world champions in the 50-over game when Kirsten left. Within months, things started to change. Why?
In your view, then, Kirsten got far too much credit?
Absolutely. If I’m a good CEO, who has put systems in place, then the organisation shouldn’t collapse when I exit... It should continue to flourish.
What about Duncan Fletcher, Kirsten’s successor?
I won’t be too critical of him, not at this stage.
You were once a big fan of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but have been quite critical of him of late. Why?
I’m still a fan of Dhoni... He remains one of my heroes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t engage in constructive criticism... If I’m critical, there are good reasons for being so. I can’t pretend to be blind... I can’t get over Dhoni taking his pads off to bowl in the Lord’s Test... I know we were a bowler short (with Zaheer Khan out with a hamstring), but that was a bit too much... Somebody else should have put his hand up, should have volunteered.
Then, you’ve got to blame Dhoni’s team, not him...
Sure, but Dhoni is the captain... He has to set the direction which the team must take.
Are you in favour of a new captain for Test cricket?
That is Sourav Ganguly’s view, not mine. I love Dhoni the captain, not Dhoni the ‘cool’ captain... He has to show some emotion on the field, has to be seen as being proactive.
Isn’t it bewildering that Manoj Tiwary, who scored a hundred in his last ODI, in early December, hasn’t got a game after that...
That’s where one has to criticise the captain, who happens to be Dhoni.
Does Dhoni have favourites?
I’ll say that if he keeps playing somebody (out of a motive), but not if he’s making an error in judgement.
Bangladesh are turning out to be a thorn for India...
On the one hand, there’s reason to be sad... But, on the other, one must appreciate the good cricket played by a far less experienced team. One should also respect the contribution made by the T20 Bangladesh Premier League.
In this part of the world, at least, your Indian Cricket League (now defunct) started it all. Surely, you can take some credit?
Do you follow the Indian Premier League closely?
Not with interest, but with an open mind. I’m not rigid... I like to see fresh talent and new players... I keep my eyes open too.
Sachin should air his views more often: Kapil Dev
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