Kapil Dev is pained that > his compliment to Sachin Tendulkar has been misinterpreted and led to widespread criticism.
He recalled the “Kapil can’t get another Test fifty” remark from Sunil Gavaskar. “It was for my good. He was challenging me to raise my game. I got a fifty in the next match (a sterling 79-ball 69 in his next innings at Bombay against Pakistan) and one more two Tests later (a 98-ball 84 and 11 wickets as India beat Pakistan at Chennai too).
“Gavaskar used to say that I should have scored 5000 runs more than what I did. In hindsight, I agree I should have taken my batting seriously. But importantly, I didn’t take Gavaskar’s remark in the wrong sense. He challenged me and I accepted it.”
What about the > remark on Tendulkar that led to needless controversy ?
“Needless is the word. Sachin, I’ve always said, was a fabulous cricketer and more talented than Viv (Richards). He had the calibre to be as ruthless, or more, but did not deliver as much as I had expected. He got 100 international 100s but his potential was greater.”
“How else could I have described him? He was an underachiever and that I maintain was a compliment. He could have done better. Am I wrong?”
Digging into the past, Kapil recalled, “He was just about making waves and I was up against him. He drilled me over mid-off for a six. I was stunned. He hit me as if I was an off-spinner and I marvelled at his talent.
“Sachin was clearly ahead of his time but he did not grow as I wanted him to grow. I loved the Sachin of Sharjah 1998 when he clubbed the Australians. His dominance was complete and stroke-play so imperious. He made good bowlers look ordinary, could hit boundaries at will but that Sachin was lost somewhere as his career progressed.”
Praise for Mumbai cricket As for the >remark on Mumbai cricket and cricketers , Kapil explained, “I would be silly if I doubted their calibre. Has Bombay not won 40 Ranji Trophy titles and 15 in a row? What an awesome record!
Players from outside Bombay learnt to be professional from them.
The Bombay batsmen believe in playing correct cricket — technically supreme, no reverse sweeps or upper cuts. But the game has changed. You have to be ruthless now.
With the exception of Sandeep Patil and to some extent Vinod Kambli, Mumbai has not produced ruthless cricketers. Now we have Ajinkya (Rahane) and Rohit (Sharma) batting differently, wanting to dominate.”
Elaborating on his views on Mumbai cricket, “I respect Mumbai cricket and cricketers. They laid the base for the growth of Indian cricket but the game has changed and it is time we all realised and accepted it.
“We also need to rise above petty regionalism. Mumbai is mine too. We would like to see Mumbai cricket and cricketers to move on. It is not about Mumbai, Haryana or Delhi.. It is about Indian cricket... Also, (Ajit) Wadekar Sir should please understand that I am a true Indian and Mumbai is part of us. I am a Bombaywalah too.”
Remembering an anecdote with noted lyricist Javed Akhtar, he said, “I told him once I would have been more successful if I had worked harder because I got so much affection from my countrymen. He said an 80-year-old man could have lived to be 100 had he cared more for his body.”
“There comes a time when one says enough is enough. In Sachin’s case it was never enough.”
“He was worth much more and that is what I meant.”
“Does he not call me Paaji ? Can an elder brother not say what he feels about his younger brother? I did precisely that.”