Sportstar archives: Kapil Dev savours a hard-fought series Down Under

In a chat with Sportstar, Kapil Dev weighs in on the highs, lows and the moments that stood out during the three-match Test series in Australia in 1985.

Kapil Dev, who took eight wickets for 106 runs in the first innings, seen in action during the first Test between India and Australia in Adelaide from December 13 to 17, 1985.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

It was an emotionally draining series. The physical efforts of the Indians came to nought because they could not win despite dictating the pace of play on 14 of the 15 days in the three Tests.

The exception was the opening day of the series in Adelaide in which Australia took the honours. Since that day, the Indians did much that was right and very little that was wrong. The draining of the emotions was caused by the frustration of a good side not being able to take dominance to its logical conclusion of a Test match and series win.

The Indians seemed to have everything save the drive to convert winning situations into a decisive victory. The world knows they were close enough to it and that they stumbled at the winning post in the Melbourne Test. In Sydney, Australia's sudden desire to destroy itself offered a smidgen of hope but the time factor worked against the Indian team. The chances that went abegging had much to do with the final verdict of a scoreless draw which was unique in Australian cricket history because so much of the cricket here has been a result-oriented over the years.

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Despite the disappointment of not having been able to win the series, Kapil Dev composed himself and his emotions to speak to Sportstar soon after the series concluded at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

"Certainly, it has been a great disappointment. It was frustrating, this matter of not winning. But I am happy that we played extremely well. Before this tour, everyone was doubting our ability to play Test cricket as it should be played. We proved conclusively that we can play Test cricket well too.

"If cricket is all about winning, then I must say that we did not do well. But I think you must look at this beyond the matter of wins. Did we not show to the world that we can be a superb Test side? Everyone talks only about our one-day achievements. So, we were quite determined to prove that a good side can be good in any type of cricket. You can turn around and ask why did we not win then. If anyone believes this failure to win has not affected me emotionally they are wrong. I feel deeply about it. It is the future which holds out hope.

"I had already spoken at length about the umpiring soon after the Melbourne Test. So, I am not going to talk about it now. Everyone who has seen the matches either at the ground or on television should be aware that umpiring decisions denied us a win in Melbourne. What is the point in going back to the MCG incidents again? I would rather talk about the positive aspects of our play.

World of good

Ravi Shastri of India seen in action during a Test match against Australia.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


"This tour of Australia has done more for Indian cricket than many of the other crowded ones in the last few years. Our spinners, Ravi Shastri and Shivlal Yadav have really come on. I can see them being in a position to win matches for us soon. I am particularly happy about the way in which Ravi has matured as a spin bowler. He has bowled longer spells than he has on previous tours and in previous Tests. He has come on so much that he was able to bear all that work superbly. I think these two spinners were magnificent.

"Our batting clicked from the very start and we were never in a situation where we had to fight for a draw or something like that. Srikkanth has progressed so much oh this tour. He made runs consistently. His approach is such that if he clicks his team straightway gets into a strong position. He destroys the opposing bowling attack and whoever bats after him, finds it easier to make the runs. I would rather look at the progress we had made as a team and as individuals on this tour than look at the result and keep feeling unhappy.

"Our close-in fielding has improved, Srikkanth has learned to make the catches from that position and our spinners get more attacking the moment the sharp chances are made from close to the bat. I am aware over all that we did not field brilliantly in the series. In fact, before the series, I had stated that mine was the best fielding side in the world. I have been proved wrong. There are areas like fielding where we have to improve if we are to find the Test wins that we deserve.

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"About my captaincy, all I would like to say is that it is up to the selectors to keep me or not. So long as I am giving hundred per cent to the team effort and I am getting hundred per cent from the boys, how can anyone be unhappy? The moment I believe I am not able to give hundred per cent, I will quit the captaincy or the selectors are welcome to drop me. I am not bothered about my record as captain. It hurts that the team has not won under me but besides everything, you must have luck with the weather and umpiring. The weather was unkind to us from the word 'go'. There was not a match in which time was not lost due to weather or light. The amount of time lost in Melbourne and in Sydney did have much to do with the draws that were achieved. When your stars are against you, what can you do? You have to accept the verdict. I can only feel sorry for the batsmen who made all their runs so well. Gavaskar was simply great. Mohinder was consistent and so were Srikkanth and Vengsarkar.

K. Srikkanth, even after the chest injury, continued to field close-in and took a brilliant catch to dismiss Bruce Reid off the bowling of Kapil Dev in the first innings during the second Test between India and Australia in Melbourne.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES



"I cannot truthfully say that I am not disappointed with Siva's performance. He had his problems at the beginning of the tour. The weather was so cold that he could not grip the ball. He comes from such a hot city that he is not accustomed to bowling in cold conditions with a wet ball. The other spinners covered up for him nicely. I only hope he finds his rhythm soon. We can then have a complete spin attack.

"The Australians have had their problems. They have had such great players as Lillee, Chappell (Greg) and Marsh retiring at the same time. But some of their young players have done well. They have shown some determination in a series which we dominated right through. It is a question of time for young players in international cricket. It is tough but progress is bound to be there. I am glad we have a very settled and experienced Test side. I do not see any problems in the near future. If we go on playing well, we are certain to win some. I can feel the wins coming soon'.

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"To be honest I did not believe we would come so near winning in Sydney. We were just three wickets away from a win and if the time lost is considered it would have appeared to have been as close as in Melbourne. It was not so. On the last day, all I had planned to do was to let the spinners have a long bowl and give them the chance to improve their figures with a few wickets. They were the ones who hunted for wickets very earnestly from the start of the final day at the SCG and full credit must go to Yadav and Shastri for dealing the knockout blow. They made sure that Australia stayed down and helped us come through as the moral victors in this series."

(This interview was first published in the Sportstar magazine in 1986.)

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