Kapil Dev has either put his foot in his mouth or has been remarkably perspicacious.
Last week, Wisden’s greatest Indian cricketer of the last century made some outsized comments about India’s all-time greatest cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.
Speaking to Khaleej Times in Dubai, he said:
“He (Sachin) got stuck with Bombay cricket. He didn’t apply himself to ruthless international cricket. I think he should have spent more time with Vivian Richards than some of the Bombay guys who played just neat and straight cricket. He did not know how to make double hundreds, triple hundreds and 400 though he had the ability, and was stuck in the Mumbai school of cricket.”
Coming in the wake of Virender Sehwag’s retirement, India’s only triple centurion, the remarks raked up debates both about Sachin’s comparative contribution to Indian cricket and the continuing North-South divide in the country.
While Tendulkar, ever the gentleman, refused to respond to his former skipper’s barbs, Mumbai cricketers were up in arms.
Ajit Wadekar responded to the apparent dislike for Mumbai cricketers in the all-rounder’s observations thus:
“Yes, in a way, I can sense that dislike. I have been experiencing it since my University cricket days. A lot of Northern players disliked us. They enjoyed staying in Mumbai, but not playing against Mumbai.
In the final analysis, Sachin scored the maximum runs and is a true legend, and where Mumbai cricket is concerned, – we always – everyone including Sachin and Sunil Gavaskar – played for the team and not for ourselves. That’s why we won the Ranji Trophy 40 times. We knew how to win.”
Former Mumbai captain Raju Kulkarni said:
“I find Kapil’s comments absurd. It’s also very unfair to Sachin and Mumbai cricket. He’s talking about centuries of a man who has scored 100 international tons. We were brought up with our seniors telling us that when you get a hundred, go on and get a double and a triple, but don’t give your wicket away.I was at a function recently where Sunil Gavaskar was talking to a group of ex-cricketers. When he saw Chandrakant Pandit (Mumbai coach) leaving the room, Sunil left the conversation and went up to Chandu. I overhead him telling Chandu that Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer should look to get 200 after his 100 and if he can’t get 300, he should not get out. That’s the kind of cricket upbringing we had.”
Dilip Vengsarkar, vice-president of Mumbai Cricket Association, quipped:
“That’s his (Kapil’s) opinion. What can one say?”
Tendulkar has 51 Test hundreds to his credit. His highest score, however, was an unbeaten 248.
The ‘Mumbai cricketer‘, as an archetype, is renowned for his khadoos (cussedly never say die) attitude.
Hemant Kenkre writes:
“The answer lies not just in the many maidans of Mumbai – the breeding grounds for its cricketers – but in the psyche of the city; one that lures millions of people from all over India, whose life is ruled by the time-tables of the railway ‘locals’, traffic snarls, unending queues, crowded tenements, and many more hardships that the city dishes out to the worker ants that flock there in search of gold. After commuting for two hours in a crowded Mumbai train, no cricketer is ever going to give it away on a platter to the next one waiting in the tent. The city breeds the khadoos attitude in its cricketers. Mumbai, like cricket, does not give you a second chance.”
Kenkre also formulates a theory for the decline in Mumbai’s fortunes in the Ranji Trophy and why fewer and fewer local cricketers are donning national colours.
“From the glorious fifties and the sixties, Mumbai’s domination has waned. The team may have won the Ranji Trophy often enough in recent times – and 39 times to date – but the current side, though competent, doesn’t resemble the ones of the past that dominated the tournament. The analysts attribute that to the rapid strides made by other states, but if you ask any former Mumbai cricketer, he will ascribe the decline to the lack of loyalty to clubs, and commercial distractions like the IPL. In the past it was very rare for a player to switch clubs, no matter what incentives were offered. The pride of wearing the club and state/city cap meant a lot more to the ‘amateur’ generation – and so it was when they wore the India blazer as well. It would seem the days when a Mumbai cricketer was fiercely loyal first to his club then to his state/city and the nation are behind us.”
Shamya Dasgupta voices similar thoughts:
“Khadoos cricket, yes, that’s what distinguished Mumbai. A team of players who refused to cede ground; a team that knew not only how to win, but more – how not to lose. That great Mumbai element – it seems to have vanished.”
Lalchand Rajput, in an interview in 2012, said:
“Earlier players never used to go to other associations, so they used to be here and try to retain their place in spite of not getting into the team. So they used to be more determined to get in to the team. But now they have options to play for other associations. That’s why that khadoos nature is a thing of the past. “
Ajit Wadekar, speaking to the Tribune in June this year, said:
“Mumbai cricketers’ ‘khadoos’ approach is missing. I am afraid to say that, but the rich legacy of Mumbai cricket hasn’t been carried forward by the younger lot of cricketers, for whom, the loyalty has shifted from representing the country to first securing an IPL contract with a franchise.
There’s no loyalty factor involved. The players are missing out on that wonderful feeling of playing as a unit, be it representing the Mumbai domestic side or featuring in the Indian team. These days, players don’t necessarily work on their basics. They experiment with their shots quite often. Also, the coaches at the academies tell the trainees that they are the next Sachin Tendulkar. This illegal mushrooming of academies is harmful. It’s a big money-making racket. These coaches promise the trainees of landing them an IPL contract and thus encourage them to play more like a T20 specialist.”
“What is required in Mumbai is advanced coaching. IPL has started the mushroom growth of coaches. I don’t know whether they give the right kind of inputs to the young cricketers. Mumbai cricket has fallen a great deal over the last 2-4 years. Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy for 16 straight years. I hope those days would come back. We have to revive it.”
Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma are the latest stalwarts from Mumbai representing the country at the highest level.
Sharma has yet to make his mark in Test cricket whereas he has slammed two double hundreds in ODIs and another in T20s. He is only the second Indian cricketer after Suresh Raina to have international hundreds in all forms of the game. While that seems impressive, the records are deceptive. Raina has failed miserably in Tests and is considered an ODI and T20 specialist. It is feared that Sharma might go the way of the hugely talented Yuvraj Singh who mustered just 20+ Test appearances in an otherwise stellar career.
That begs the question: Is Tendulkar Mumbai cricket’s last khadoos?
Kapil’s comments about Tendulkar cannot be easily brushed aside as northern chauvinism.
It would be interesting to see in how many of the centurion innings by Tendulkar, Sehwag, Richards and Lara, did any of their teammates cross 75? If few, that would imply that these greats were performing at a much higher level than their contemporaries during those epochal stays.
Rather than trying to deduce the answer myself, I’ve simply decided to Ask Steven.
If you know the answer, you can comment below.
Thanks to Arnold D’souza, who answered my query on Facebook, I have the answers:
BC Lara (WI) – (17/34) — 50%
SM Gavaskar (India) – (15/34) — 44.12%
SR Tendulkar (India) – (14/51) — 27.45%
V Sehwag (India) – (8/23) — 34.78%
IVA Richards (WI) – (12/24) — 50%
DG Bradman (Aus) – (6/29) — 20.69%
By the above yardstick, the two West Indians are head-and-shoulders above the rest. Lara’s performance does not surprise so much; he was part of a much weakened West Indian side in decline. It’s Richards’ figures that are outstanding. He towers above batsmen of the caliber of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Alvin Kalicharran, Clive Lloyd and Richie Richardson.
Sehwag edges ahead of Tendulkar on the basis of this criteria. Of course, this does not factor in the Little Master’s longevity.
But it’s Gavaskar, the most technically accomplished batsman of his era, who is India’s batter to turn to when you wish someone would bat for your life.
The list would be more complete if I added Rahul Dravid, Allan Border and Steve Waugh to the mix.
Tweeted reactions to Kapil’s comments:
Kapil Dev has since clarified his statements about Sachin terming him an “underachiever”.
“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.
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?”
“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.
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.”
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.”