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On a new pitch

HE LOOKED every inch the man who single-handedly changed India's fortunes in the game many a time. Kapil Dev, The Haryana Hurricane, who engulfed the game, people and memories in his long career spanning many years, the iconwho was recently named Wisden Cricketer of the Year, the gutsy man who bore trials and tribulations in his stride, the sportsman who elevated the level of the gentleman's game, the numero uno all-rounder who carried on the opening bowler's mantle for several years and the soft-spoken warm human being, still retains the raging passion for the game. Kapil was chosen Wisden's Cricketer of the Year from amongst a galaxy of cricketers. Asked how he felt, his immediate answer was "very happy at the moment." Especially after the testing times he went through? And pat comes the answer "That's OK. Life is full of ups and downs."

What does he think of the current controversy plaguing the game? Should not the game be given priority over money? "Yes, the game should definitely be given priority," he asserts, but adds "but by whom - the administration or the players. I am still confused. If it is not the players, it is the administration, which wants more money. What was bad in the way cricket has been played over the decades? Why should there be change overnight? Why do they want to cut sportsmen's hands? Every person or organisation may want to make more money and every player wants to have a better life," he says, which leads to a counter-question: Are the players justified in the stand that they have taken? "I would say yes, because when I look or meet the older generation of cricketers, I feel they are justified. Once they retire, there is nobody to look after them and if we can't look after them, we have no right to stop them from earning money. .

Of late, Kapil has entered the small screen in a different capacity as the host of the programme Kapil Dil Se. How does it feel interviewing a celebrity while you are one yourself? "It's very nice. I always feel that people should come out and speak rather than hold back information. I believe when I am giving an interview or speaking, I am very open. Somehow the people I speak to on the show feel comfortable with me." Are the interviews a learning process for you?" Of course. Everyday you meet great stars and personalities. It is good to know how they became one. Whoever becomes a star has something special in them and I like to know that special quality. Every star has something different to say." "Sometimes in our society some people don't talk about where and how they became successful . I was a very naughty child when I was young. I was not a good student and I don't hide that. Everyone excels in some field or the other. I want to know about that and so do other people."

Do you have any plans of setting up a coaching academy? "With Sony Max, I am trying to spot some young talent and do things I could not do when I was playing. Now I go and see how people play in the streets." Do you think that cricketers are still born and made in the galis and streets of the country? "Of course, without doubt. If anybody says we haven't played and learnt a few tricks of the trade in the galis and streets, I would think they are lying." Without breaking window-panes? He replies with a smile "That's the great part of growing up."

Regarding the establishment of coaching foundation, Kapil asserts that it is up to the Government or the Cricket Board to do so.

"As cricketers, we can give our services. If we are forced to set up things, then what is the job of the Board?" he asks

What does he think of the commercialisation of the game? "The game has to become commercialised to become popular. I think it is the television media that has made it commercialised and popular."

About his role with Sony television, he says, "I am promoting cricket," he says. Would he call himself a brand ambassador? "That's an English name," he says, laughing.

How does he benefit? "I get a chance to meet people and I am happy to do so."

How does he feel about interacting with common people?

" I think it is beautiful. I feel bad many a time when they show more interest in taking photographs and autographs than in talking with me. It is disappointing because I like to talk with them and know about their lives."

`Behind every successful man is a woman... ' so goes the adage. How far has your wife contributed to your success?

"At every step, women have played a role in my life. When I was young my mother, sister, bhabhi were important and for the past 20-odd years, my wife has stood by me and if you have a wife who understands you, then I think it is God's gift and blessing."

What made Kapil take to golf? "I think it is a beautiful game - the only game you play against yourself."

How does it feel to be a celebrity? "It is a beautiful life. If people love you and respect you, what else does one want in life? Of course, when private life comes under public scrutiny, it hampers life sometimes.

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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