NEW DELHI: He needed no cheer-girls to attract cricket lovers to the arena. His flashing strokes and incisive deliveries transformed him into a legend much before he was through with his cricket. Such was Kapil Dev’s magnetic appeal.
One of the icons of modern cricket, adjudged the ‘Indian Cricketer of the Century’ by 100 top cricketers, Kapil sadly is distanced from official cricket. His association with the Indian Cricket League severed his links with the Board and that “hurt” him no end. But then he has learnt to take things in his stride, just as he accepted the triumphs and the defeats on the cricket field.
He is aware that this is the age of entertainment where cricket is packaged with dance and music. Kapil counters, “What entertainment? Cricket itself is entertainment. Sport is entertainment. It doesn’t need gimmicks to boost its market. For years we have had stadiums full because they came to watch batsmen and bowlers, wickets and catches, runs and sixes, and not wildly swinging hips.”
The craze for the Indian Premier League, being touted as a huge marketing success, has jolted not just the purists but also many former players. Kapil was candid when he confessed, “I have spoken to a lot of senior cricketers and they think it is a big tamasha (circus). It is a financial venture with purely business interests at the heart of it. Let us accept it as a business venture. As far as cricket is concerned, I can only say that I feel sorry for the game because one of the top BCCI officials recently wanted betting to be legalised. Nothing could be more outlandish.”
He continued, “I feel sorry for the BCCI. I wonder what stopped it from marketing its domestic cricket. Wait and watch what happens to domestic cricket now. A youngster will learn the game in the domestic circuit and not the IPL.”
The former India captain, known for his flamboyant style of cricket, observed how the culture of cricket had changed, from playing it to watching it too. “The jump has been too big for the administrators to handle. The BCCI is finished as an organisation.”
Why? “Because club culture, with the patronage of the administration, will command bigger loyalty than State or even country.”
Does he visualise market forces and glamorous stars from the tinsel world taking over the game in the future. “I am sure even cricketers would soon resent and resist this invasion by film stars.”
Would that mean a Shah Rukh Khan becoming a 12th man or a Priyanka Chopra carrying drinks during breaks. “It will happen because cricket has been reduced to business. The BCCI has not defined any rules for this tournament. What stops film stars from playing a T20 match in the IPL. What a farce!”
So what impact would it have on the game? “Huge,” asserts Kapil. “In times to come you would see teams struggling to survive even 50 overs to save a match because of the mindset of the modern batsmen. I don’t think you will ever get a player like Sunil Gavaskar or Rahul Dravid now. You will get lot of these Twenty20 players, more of the (Virender) Sehwag and (MS) Dhoni variety. This game is for batsmen only. The best bowlers are getting slammed.”
Good track record
Kapil’s association with cricket now has been restricted to running the ICL and installing floodlights at various venues. MUSCO was launched 14 years ago when he returned from a trip to the United States.
“I saw a lot of floodlit sports there and I realised that sports at night would suit the Indians because of the weather conditions. Our company installed the floodlights at Mohali using a unique necklace technique with 18 towers because of the ground’s proximity to the airfield. I am proud to say that in 14 years only seven bulbs at Mohali have developed a snag.”
MUSCO installed lights at cricket grounds in Ahmedabad, Cuttack, Cricket Club of India, Punchkula, Gurgaon and Silchar apart from a few golf courses, football grounds and tennis courts.
“Our expertise is in sports lighting and my ambition is to extend this facility to small clubs, schools and colleges,” Kapil concluded.