A ponytailed Kapil Dev sits in his office, a knowing twinkle in his eye. He has done this a number of times. Before every World Cup, it seems mandatory to talk to Kapil about that 1983 victory. In this interaction with THE WEEK, though, the World Cup-winning captain talks more about the ongoing tournament and the expectations of the Indian team. Edited excerpts:
Q/ Your thoughts on a home World Cup, especially after the pandemic?
A/ With the World Cup happening in our country, there is too much pressure on everybody, even in terms of getting tickets and giving passes.
Q/ What do you think of the World Cup format? Will it be exciting? Do you expect the tournament to be full of runs because of some flat pitches?
A/ Fifty overs will be fifty overs. You cannot say that people do not enjoy it. [There are people] enjoying the 100-ball format in England. When 50-overs cricket started in England, they called it pyjama cricket. When T20 cricket came in, it was called brainless cricket; now people love it.
Q/ What aspect of the game do you think would be important in this tournament?
A/ Middle overs. We have seen enough in the beginning and the end, but the middle overs will be very crucial. Whichever team plays the middle overs better will win.
Q/ Spinners like Kuldeep Yadav have been brought in to control those middle overs and get wickets. They will be under a lot of pressure.
A/ Your team combination is important. The spinners have to play an important role, to not only control the runs, but also take wickets.
Q/ But with the pitches full of runs, more so in the subcontinent, how difficult is the role of a spinner?
A/ Very difficult―if the pitches are going to be flat―for any bowler. Chasing 350 runs is not that difficult if there are flat pitches; the bats are good, the boundaries are smaller. I think this is all being done by the ICC for the spectators―to give them value for their money.
Q/ While India have seniors in Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to take the lead with the bat, what about the bowling?
A/ The bowling looks good. [Mohammed] Siraj, [Jasprit] Bumrah and [Mohammed] Shami are good, but it will all depend on how the spinners come out and do the needful.
Q/ So, basically, spinners hold the key?
A/ [Yes,] but if the pitches are very good, it becomes difficult for a spinner to attack and contain.
Q/ But don’t you think somebody like Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja has the experience to manage the situation?
A/ Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep have enough experience. So, if somebody plays well against them, you have to give [the batters] credit.
Q/ Is this going to be a spinners’ tournament?
A/ I cannot say until I see the wickets. If it is an underprepared pitch, has not been properly rolled and has taken rain, a normal spinner can be deadly. If it is a flat pitch, the same spinner could go for 10 runs an over.
Q/ Being a home World Cup, there will be immense pressure on India.
A/ They should just enjoy themselves for these 40-odd days. That is more important. To me, it is more important to reach the last four first.
Q/ So you are only looking at the top four for now?
A/ I am only bothered about my own team. No one team is dominating. If one day you say a particular team is full of champions, the next day they could lose to the number five team.
Q/ How difficult is it for a team like New Zealand, which came so close to winning the previous World Cup?
A/ It is a stroke of luck. I do not think you can carry on about it for four years.
Q/ Are New Zealand a favourite?
A/ New Zealand can be difficult for any team. I saw New Zealand playing some time back; they got 340 or 350 runs in the 43rd over. And their captain Kane [Williamson]―other people play the match, he controls it. So, yes, New Zealand always bounce back.
Q/ What about defending champions England?
A/ England have become much better in ODIs in the past few years. [They had] never won the World Cup [before 2019] and never played ruthless cricket. Now what they are doing in ODIs and T20Is is a different game altogether.
Q/ Everybody seemed to have written off Pakistan even though they are a subcontinent team. Thoughts?
A/ It is a ruthless team. The only thing [to be seen] is if they can win all their matches. That is very difficult. They can win against anybody, but they can lose to anybody, too. That is the way this team is.
Q/ Does that make them all the more dangerous?
A/ They are a dangerous team. I do not expect them to win all their matches, but they can beat
Q/ Do you think Sri Lanka, who have won a World Cup in the subcontinent, are not given enough credit?
A/ I would not say [their chances are high] this time because these are young boys. By the next World Cup, this will be a mature bunch.
Q/ Your expectations from this tournament?
A/ I want to see good, helpful pitches; that is important. They should make pitches that are 60 per cent for the batsmen and 40 per cent for the bowlers.
Q/ Back to India, could this be Kohli’s last World Cup?
A/ Depends on how long he can keep himself fit. I do not expect him [to win], I expect the team to win matches. When you start expecting one player to win matches for you, you are not going to win the World Cup. Yes, he is an important player and should make an impact, but he can win a few matches for you, not the World Cup.