Monaco: Mahendra Singh Dhoni's place in the Indian team has been a topic of debate, fairly or unfairly, for a while now. But India legend Kapil Dev believes that the Indian cricket team does not have anyone else at the moment who can bring to the table what Dhoni does.
In a freewheeling interview, Dev spoke to Firstpost about India's recent tour of South Africa, skipper Virat Kohli's aggressive brand of captaincy, Dhoni's place in the side and the Lodha Committee-suggested Cricket Players Association for which he's part of the Steering Committee, and of course, Laureus Sports Awards. Edited excerpts:
Thoughts on India's tour of South Africa?
India's tour went wonderfully well. I never expected that the team would bounce back so well (after the first two Tests). India should have won the Test series also, but South Africa played really well. India got some opportunities in the Tests, but they could not exploit that. But finally, once the won the last Test, India didn't look back. Winning 5-1 in South Africa against South Africa was huge. Besides Virat Kohli, our wrist spinners also did an incredible job. In the last few years, ever since he's taken over he's done amazingly well in the way he's motivated the entire team.
Virat Kohli's aggressive brand of captaincy and Steve Waugh's comments that Kohli must tone down his style
I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Steve has his opinion. I'm not going to respond to that. I feel as long as success is coming to the team, that's good enough. Basically, our nation is a very soft nation. Virat is one of the few who have come out and changed the thought process. In fact, it was Sourav Ganguly who started changing our thought process. And then we had MS Dhoni, who was a totally different person. He was calm and quiet. So it's what works for you. As long as success is coming on the field, that's more important. I think Virat (Kohli) will mellow down as time passes. If not, that's his decision. He's always been like this ever since I saw him in his U-19 days.
India's status as one of the favourites for next year's World Cup
The 2019 World Cup is still far away. There's still a lot of cricket to be played. I personally feel this is too early to discuss the 2019 World Cup. I don't know what the team will be when the World Cup comes along or what the situation will be like then. You can't say how many people will be hundred percent fit. It depends on what players are available given form and injuries. If you look at the Indian team now, they look like a good team. Of course, India are candidates to win the World Cup. But there's still a long way to go.
Thoughts on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's place in the team
Why do people have this doubt? Is there any cricketer who can take Mahi's place in the next series? I'm not talking about the 2019 World Cup. I'll go series by series. He's such a mature cricketer if he can help Virat Kohli, why not? If he's not performing at all, I can understand. The problem with the media is that they compare Dhoni with what he was 10 years back. He's not going to be like that, but I think we need to see whatever he's doing for the team is it good enough for the team or not.
On the mooted Cricket Players Association (for which he's part of the Steering Committee) and the impact it can have
I think it's always important to give the players' point of view to the cricket board. But it's not the current players who should be talking about that, their job is to carry on playing. It should be a committee who should be deciding how much cricket the national team should be playing, and what the players should ask for. It is the way things happen around the world.
Association with Laureus...
Laureus was started 18 years back by a few sportsmen. Now we have around 60 athletes under the Laureus banner, who want to make a change in the world by using sports. We want to help young kids and communities in whichever part of the world it is needed. That is the basic idea of Laureus. We collectively work together. Whenever something happens in India, Laureus asks me to do that. We try and bring happiness to young kids who need it all around the world.
The writer's trip was sponsored by Laureus