India’s greatest all-rounder has always been willing to rise to new challenges
New Delhi: His phone does not stop ringing. For Kapil Dev, the job has just begun. “Requests are pouring in from all corners. The list of players wanting to join the Indian Cricket league (ICL) is growing. But we can’t accommodate them all. I am happy that the response to our effort has been overwhelming,” says India’s only World Cup winning captain.
As chairman of the ICL, Kapil has the responsibility of setting in motion a project that is being seen as a threat to the establishment. But, then, India’s greatest all-rounder has always been a man willing to rise to new challenges.
Now, though, he does not like being referred to as a rebel. “I am a fighter. I fought for my rights as a player from the time I went to the first national camp as a junior. I fought with the national coach for extra diet. I fought with the Board when we were punished for playing in the United States (the players won the case in the Supreme Court). I fought with the officials to be allowed to sport logos on our shirts. I fought for the players to be allotted single rooms. I fought for business class travel. I fought. Was I wrong? I could not tolerate injustice,” says Kapil.
The money factor
Why did Kapil, enjoying a comfortable life and running a successful business, have to take up this new assignment? For money? “Yes, for money, for cricket, for young players wanting to lead a decent life, for the officials to understand that there is nothing wrong if someone outside the BCCI wants to help the game to grow. I don’t understand why people just talk of someone making money by toiling to earn more. Is it a crime if a young cricketer wants to make big money. He is only looking at improving his quality of life. And he is doing it by slogging on the field and not through corrupt means.”
But there had to be some compelling reason for Kapil to accept this role. “Some 20 years ago I saw Mr. Chandu Borde wait two hours outside the office of a Board official to collect his daily allowance. It was appalling. I pledged that day I would not allow myself to be seen in a similar situation. Playing cricket did not mean struggling to live,” says Kapil.’
Adjudged the greatest Indian cricketer of the 20th century by a select panel of former Test players, Kapil salutes the youngsters who have signed with the ICL. “Hats off to them. At their age, I would not have taken such a courageous decision. In my time, two players would speak and the rest would just nod. It will not happen with today’s youngsters. Their confidence and commitment is amazing. I have told them I will stand by them all the way. My job is to back them and their job is to perform.”
Kapil is honest when he says that the money factor is very important in today’s context. “These players have been denied opportunities at various points by various associations. They want to play and make money. Nothing wrong I am sure. What is wrong is that the BCCI has been threatening the players. These young boys have stood up and spoken their mind. They will not take things lying down as players of my era and the earlier era did. As for those accusing me and others at ICL for being lured just by money, I want to know if these officials work for free. Do cricketers work in the media for free or do cricketers play for India for free? My pension from the BCCI goes to charity. ”
As players, Kapil pointed out, none wanted to break the Indian team. “I did not speak to any player in the Indian team. We all wish Indian cricket well. Cricket is by the cricketers and for the cricketers. At the ICL, cricketers call the shots.
In BCCI, cricketers do not count. We want to set an example. I am sure things will change for the better soon.”
The movement, as Kapil calls it, begins with a camp for the ICL players at Chennai later this month. His phone rings again. A player recently out of favour is calling.