Kapil Dev: ‘England has a ruthless approach’

India’s World Cup winning captain recognises potential in England’s limited-overs side, and considers it a big title contender at the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy.

Kapil Dev... “My heart says yes (India can repeat its 2013 feat), and my cricketing brain says no.”   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

Kapil Dev has some interesting observations on today’s cricket. India’s World Cup winning captain and a former all-rounder of influence - he is bracketed alongside Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee - Kapil was among the most eminent cricketers of his time. So when he considers Ben Stokes a better all-rounder than himself and the best of his contemporaries, his assessment seems surprising.

Kapil aired his opinions on various themes surrounding contemporary cricket, fielding a range of questions at an exclusive interaction arranged by International Cricket Council (ICC) broadcaster Star Sports.

Excerpts:

Is the ICC Champions Trophy big and relevant?

The impact of a series, say India playing the West Indies, Australia or New Zealand has diminished somewhat. Events like the World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy evoke interest. I don’t know how and why. IPL or Big Bash make a big impact. Cricket has drifted from the time when we used to play bilateral series; now people look forward to all teams taking part in a championship.

People remember World Cup and Champions Trophy matches; they even remember the Benson & Hedges Championship we won. The last Champions Trophy was a huge success. It’s a change in mindset and cricket has to cater to the new generation which likes to see competitions, with all teams playing. Today’s generation watches sports in general. Why India is watching all these tournaments is because we are winning the most. If India had not won the first World Twenty20, the IPL would not have been this big. Winning brings lot of things together and this applies to the Champions Trophy.

Absence of the West Indies

It’s very hard to believe that West Indies will not be at the tournament. I always follow West Indies cricket very closely because that was the best team in our time. If the West Indies team has declined in 20 or 30 years, we can say that the other teams have come up. It’s sad to see the West Indies decline from where it was. There is no shortage of talent, though.

West Indies winning the World Twenty20 in Kolkata was fantastic. When someone makes a rule, they don’t think of things like... whether this or that team will qualify. I, as a cricketer, lover of the game think that West Indies should be there all the time, but again, I don’t write the rules.

Making adjustments from Twenty20s to ODIs

I think everybody has to make adjustments; the batsmen have to understand that the Champions Trophy would be a 300-ball game and not a 120-ball game. Their temperament has to change. Same with the bowlers. So, adjustment is the key. That’s the reason I respect the young professionals a lot. They adapt.

India won five out of five in England in the 2013 Champions Trophy; can it repeat the show?

It’s very difficult to say that. If I look at the Indian team on paper, it looks fantastic, but it would be very unfair... my heart says yes (they can do it again) and my cricketing brain says no. It looks like India has more chances, but again in one-day cricket you don’t need big names, but big commitment that very day.

India playing Pakistan

In the 1980s, the Pakistan team was better, they beat us more times; but in the last 15 years, the Indian team has become better. Pakistan has nothing to lose at this stage. They have everything to gain.

Anxiety levels of Indian and Pakistani supporters

I personally feel my anxiety levels are less. There are too many things happening around India and Pakistan and I am not excited at all. I have crossed that age. Had it been 15 years ago, I would have looked forward to an India-Pakistan contest. A young kid must be very keen to see a India-Pakistan match, though.

The anxiety levels of the players

Cricket per se has remained the same in the last 20 years and at the same time, it has changed a lot in the way of thinking, temperament and playing. I am not into cricket deep down. If you are not in the dressing room, it’s very hard. From outside, we can say that the Indian team has reached that level wherein they are only bothered about the performance which is a good sign and a bad sign...good because they know their strength and they are not worried, but some times you tend to underestimate the other team’s strength and that can be a little dicey.

India in the same group as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa

The Champions Trophy is a new tournament at a new place and in a new situation. It’s a new challenge. The Indian team is lucky because they have played the IPL which is no small matter. R. Ashwin has got enough rest; Jadeja did not play all matches. They must be itching to get back into action.

On Yuvraj Singh

He has been the most talented cricketer we have seen in the last 15 years. He has gone though rough times in his life. Hats off to him, he is playing. People who are backing him feel that he is very important. But he has to work very hard; it may sound a little bit different and I would like him to play from the front and not to play in order to take the sympathies of the people, because sometimes, you go into that mode and say, “Yes, people want me to play”. But the question is, “do you want to play at that level?”.

He has huge talent and only his fitness and being there should make him say, ‘I deserve it’ and then nobody is better than him.

Teams to look forward to

I think of England. For the first time in 40 years, England have given me the impression that they are producing players for one-day cricket. They have a ruthless approach. They have Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes. They can win matches on their own. That’s the sort of the team we had...we had [M. S. ] Dhoni, Sachin [Tendulkar], Yuvraj [Singh], Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag. For the first time I feel England have so many good players who on their own can win matches.

On Ben Stokes

He is much better than [Imran, Hadlee, Botham and myself]. We have to respect these young players. They are far better [than us]. I don’t think I like to compare, but these boys take more pressure and play more cricket. It’s not easy to play like this across all formats. I will respect them more than us. Stokes is known to be a batsman-allrounder; his bowling is handy to the team, same like Jacques Kallis. We were all bowler all-rounders. Stokes is a far better batsman than any one of us were.

Team likely to win in English conditions

Once you see a couple of matches, it will be easy to make a statement about the conditions and form. I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth now.

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