“I always believed one should not fight with our own cricket board but sometimes it's good to show the mirror,” said Kapil Dev in 2008 while he was the chairman of the now-defunct Indian Cricket League.
However, he increasingly found that the reflection didn’t matter to the Board of Control for Cricket in India. He also found that being part of the ICL meant that he was ostracised by the BCCI at every available opportunity. And while he was on the outside, he saw his old mates getting lucrative contracts with the BCCI even as his own legacy, starting with a huge mural-like poster at the PCA ground at Mohali, was disappearing.
But he continued to believe that he had done nothing wrong by joining the ICL. In 2009, the BCCI offered amnesty to all the ICL players and officials involved with the ICL, giving them an opportunity to return to official cricket - from which they had been banned - if they terminated their contracts with the league within a stipulated deadline.
Kapil stood firm then. His beliefs didn’t waver. He believed in his cause. That's how it should have been.
But then around two months ago, Kapil sent a resignation letter to Himanshu Mody, the business head of Zee Sports which ran the ICL.
According to sources, it briefly stated that he had joined the ICL to further cricket’s cause but since the ICL doesn’t exist anymore and there is no cricket being played, there is nothing left for him to do. It also requested Zee Sports to remove his name from all the court cases against the BCCI. Lastly, it said that he enjoyed his stint with the ICL and believed that they managed to change the cricket world for the better in the short time that they were active.
The BCCI head honchos, on their part, smiled inwardly. The last ‘rebel’ had decided to jump over to their side. A senior BCCI official, with a barely concealed chuckle, told Firstpost: “He caved in.”
Not that Kapil would have any of that – he insists he wants to help cricket. He wants us to believe that this is a decision that has nothing to do with the Rs 1.5 crore cheques that the BCCI was doling out to ex-cricketers who had played over 100 Tests.
So what really changed Kapil’s mind? If it isn’t about the money, then what is this about?
It’s hard to imagine him continuing to criticise the BCCI now that he is back in the fold. Indeed, it’s rare to see any of the cricketers take on the BCCI. Sunil Gavaskar is doing it these days but only because he seems to have fallen out of favour. So is Kapil Dev the anti-dote to the Gavaskar problem?
BCCI’s decision to outlaw every cricketer who was involved with the ICL was personal. They made sure it was. They were looking to protect their turf and it meant that legends like Kapil Dev were denied even the BCCI pension – which should have been theirs by right.
Now, Kapil Dev in his post-retirement avatar wasn’t really worth much to Indian cricket. As a coach, he was pretty bad – play with heart and all that is good but one needs to win. His stint as NCA chairman was abysmal too – remember ‘I don't know what I am expected to do’ comment immediately after taking over. The tears on television were a bit too much. His constant posturing about the unfairness of the media, and his attempt to try and pass off his ICL tenure as something that he was doing for cricket weren't really believable either.
But there was something truly creepy about the BCCI's attempt to simply erase his presence. And now, he will sit with the ‘creeps’ and sing and dance and laugh and have a merry time. Did he need to do this?
He has his golf and his television contracts which are worth around Rs 3 crore a year and various other businesses. The 3-year contract with the ICL was reportedly worth around Rs 12 crore. So unless, he’s had a really bad run of luck, he doesn’t need the money, the BCCI and the humiliation.
Indeed, one wonders who’ll sleep better tonight?
The BCCI officials who will believe that they have laid the last ghost of the ICL to rest or Kapil – India’s greatest cricketer -- who had to kow-tow and beg for an amnesty?
We don’t even need to answer that. Perhaps it's time for Kapil Dev to show himself the mirror.