Kapil Dev talks about golf, Dhoni and Kohli
It was a cold, wintry morning at the Prestige Golfshire. Just as our car drove in, and we were soaking in the sights of the verdurous golf course, our attention was caught by a familiar face. Driving a golf cart, the former captain of the Indian cricket team that won the World Cup in 1983, Kapil Dev, seemed to be in a good mood and flashed his signature smile as we crossed the cart. The former cricketer, who is now pursuing his interest in golf was in Bengaluru for two reasons. Kapil was participating in the Krishnapatnam Port Golden Eagles Golf Championship and was formally introduced as the brand ambassador of the 18-hole, ocean-linked golf course by the Krishnapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh.
Playing out in public
Dressed in a navy blue T-shirt and white golf trousers, Kapil, though 58, looks as young as any of the current crop of cricketers. We ask him how he has managed to stay so fit and pat comes the reply, "I just look after my food, and I don't eat late. These are the two things that give me strength. I am not fussy but if I have to eat fried, I will taste, I don't eat. Perhaps 30 years ago, I would have eaten a horse but today I look for tasting food rather than eating it," reveals Kapil candidly. The former cricketer has been playing golf for more than two decades and is a regular at several tournaments across the country. But it's interesting to know that the cricketer initially wasn't keen on taking up any sport that would once again put him out in public view. Reminiscing how golf became part of his life, Kapil reveals, "A friend of mine called me to play golf and I told him, 'I don't want to go out and play in public, after cricket I just want to be with myself.' He said to me that after the first hole nobody will see you, you will be far inside with only your caddie and four friends," this assurance prompted Kapil to take up the game and he hasn't looked back since then.
Though he will still be remembered as the legendary cricketer who won the first World Cup for India, Kapil seems to have moved on to enjoy golf as his favourite game. What keeps him hooked onto it is the fact that this is an individual game, something that the former cricketer thinks has made him stronger. "In golf you have total control on your body, power, strength, and the result is yours, you can't raise a finger on anybody. I think that gave me the strength, so I can criticise myself and I can say, 'ok, I played bad'. In other sports you are depending on somebody else." It's this blatant honesty and frank attitude that is so endearing about the veteran cricketer. Since the time he has started playing golf, the game has evolved a lot more. Kapil says that today there is more awareness about the game. Though it may seem that golf is for the elite, the cricketer disagrees citing how most professional golfers today come from a humble background. "Fifty per cent of golfers in our country, professionals who are earning are in fact, caddies who have turned pro. We cannot say that only the elite play golf. The rich play on a Saturday or Sunday but professional players are from lower middle-class. It's not a rich man's game, and all the best golfers are caddie-turned-golfers," he explains. With such a significant change there could be a possibility of golf growing further in India, perhaps some day it may even become as popular as cricket, but Kapil has a different perspective to this. He says, "Golf should have its own place and cricket should have its own place. It's very unfair to compare any other sport with cricket."
So how different is the sports scene in India to the legend, Kapil Dev and the cricketer thinks in retrospect. He believes sports in India has come a long way. From the one hour sports programme on a Sunday evening on Doordarshan, to more than 10 sports channels that air 24 hours a day, the interest in sports has definitely grown. But what bothers Kapil is how even today, sports takes a hit compared to academics. He shares his insight, "In India, do you think, even today, parents will be happy if their child misses his 10th standard exams to play an under-15 game for the country? In America, in Europe and Australia, every parent will say, you give the exams next year. Go and play for your country. That's the change that has to happen here."
All about the boss
From the time Kapil started playing cricket till now, the age of Dhoni and Kohli, cricket too has seen many changes and has evolved. Shorter format games, different treatment for cricketers who now have the privilege of getting special nutrition depending on their role in the team to getting physiotherapists onboard to travel with them, a lot has changed. Ask the legendary cricketer did he miss this sort of treatment back in his days, and he politely says, "Honestly, I don't know, what privileges they have. I am not with them and only get to know about these through the media. During our time, we were not educated and didn't know so much. That time if we got food that was good enough, to get a certain kind of food or protein was not the criteria. Getting protein wasn't important, getting food was all that mattered." Even the money earned today, particularly the amount a cricketer earns is far more than any other sportsperson. A privilege that perhaps the boys in 1983 and other cricketers missed it till much later. Again, the legendary cricketer refuses to say anything that's inconsiderate, "I don't know much about it. But I think money gives a lot of comfort to everybody and I think it's good to see they are making so much money. One can buy a lot of comfort."
Though many questions are posed to Kapil about today's players and the politics that has trickled into the cricket board room, the cricketer isn't apprehensive about sharing his personal views. When asked about his thoughts on MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, he says, "I think both are fabulous. We have seen Dhoni for many, many, many years, and his approach to the game. I think it was wonderful, and suddenly we saw the change in Kohli. When he became successful, we said that's also wonderful. But if you keep up the aggression like that all your life maybe you should say 'I have had enough'. Everybody perhaps should be like Dhoni, but then sometimes, you'll say, 'that's also too much'. So change is good, but if that change brings us victory and brings us close to better sports and better cricket, then it is worth happening."
On the silver screen
Though he gave up cricket for more than two decades and pursued golf on a friend's request, Kapil is still in the news for his sport and charitable activities. His Khushi Foundation raises money for the education of underprivileged children through art auctions and other activities. So what's next on his mind we ask, and more importantly, if he misses playing the game of cricket, "Sometimes I miss playing cricket. But I am content and happy. I can't really say I miss, but I do miss when I meet friends and we talk about those days. But I don't miss wearing clothes and going on field to play a game, I don't miss cricket in that sense."
But once a cricketer, will always be remembered a cricketer and that's how people will remember Kapil till eternity. As a tribute to the 1983 winning team, a biopic is in the making, filmmaker Kabir Khan will be directing the film. Ranveer Singh will play Kapil Dev in this yet untitled biopic. But what does the cricketer think about this and he says, "Recently some actors have done biopics, hats off to them on how much effort and planning they put in. Indian actors and directors are excellent. They know what to do." So would the cricketer be on sets helping the actor out, and he says,"I might spend some time to make the team understand how I lived, what I did, and help them understand my mannerisms. But the producer and director have to approach me," he signs off.