By Kapil Dev –
I used to enjoy the fierce contests with the great Pakistan teams under the inspirational Imran Khan. Who else could have led a team that had one Javed Miandad in it?
Playing cricket with Pakistan was not always fun. But off-the-field, they were always a very relaxed and fun-loving bunch. On the field they lived by the sword and died by the sword. Maybe, that is why the cricket always looked so intense when we were playing Pakistan. Essentially, they are a light-hearted people with whom I got along fabulously, more so maybe because of the lingo.
Our Punjabi language meant we could converse freely with each other. Maybe, the boys from south or west of India who didn’t know Punjabi did not share the same vibes with the Pakistan players. They never seemed to me to be the most professional bunch of players but they are extremely gifted. Maybe, they are a bit mercurial but they are great opponents on-the-field.
I used to enjoy the fierce contests with the great Pakistan teams under the inspirational Imran Khan. Who else could have led a team that had one Javed Miandad in it? In the leadership stakes, Imran was a clear front runner. But then he also had great fast bowlers and a quality spinner in Abdul Qadir. I am not so sure about the present Pakistan side, whether it has either quality batsmen or fast bowlers. Maybe, that is the reason why India may have gone ahead in most recent times.
I know they love touring India and as I said publicly back in my country they are welcome to come over and play cricket. I believe politics should be left out of this even if some of us feel uncomfortable that while, on the one hand, we fight each other at the border, we are playing each other at cricket and enjoying each other’s company after the draw of stumps.
The visitors always enjoyed the freedom in India which is quite different from the freedom they have back in their own country. Cricketers are treated on a different plane out here in India. Players are hero-worshipped like in no other cricket-playing country and that is why the Pakistan players seem to really enjoy coming out here.
I know in the old days, Pakistan used to beat us often, mostly in Sharjah. Somehow, that desert venue did not suit us and Pakistan seemed to have the edge in the number of exchanges we had out there. But in other venues we used to hold our own. I can see a distinct shift in the equations now with the Indian team having graduated to another level. Because of all the changes after the advent of IPL, India is in a different league although the team would have to play each match as an intense contest. This is a really strong Indian team, perhaps the best ever one-day combination. I can see them dominating waorld cricket in this format in certain conditions.
So long as we keep playing sport, relationships between our nations should also improve, which is why I am a great supporter of hosting Pakistan for this short series of limited-overs matches. This is the way cricket can contribute to stability in the region. I welcome the visitors to India and wish them well. Let the matches be keenly and cleanly fought. I am also looking forward to speaking in Punjabi to those who come from across the border.
The author is one of the greatest all-rounders to grace the game and led India to its maiden World Cup triumph in 1983.