Respect Kohli’s opinion on Shastri: Kapil

Kolkata: Former cricketer Kapil Dev and Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) President Sourav Ganguly at the 100th Anniversary celebrations of East Bengal Club, in Kolkata on Aug 1, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

Kolkata  Former India captain and current chairman of the newly formed Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) Kapil Dev on Thursday said that he respects Virat Kohli’s opinion that he wants Ravi Shastri to remain the head coach of the Indian team.

“That’s his opinion, we should respect everybody’s opinion,” Kapil told reporters on the sidelines of East Bengal’s Foundation Day programme.

The CAC — comprising India’s first World Cup winning captain Kapil, former batsman and national coach Anshuman Gaekwad and ex-women’s team captain Shanta Rangaswamy — has been entrusted with the job of selecting a new head coach.

In his pre-departure press conference, India skipper Kohli had said that the team would be very happy if Shastri continues as the head coach.

On Wednesday, former India captain Sourav Ganguly had said that Kohli is the captain of the team and has the right to voice his opinion.

Kapil was also asked about reports of a rift between Kohli and his limited overs deputy Rohit Sharma.

“You have to do your job. Thoda bohot to aap bhi help karte ho na rumour banane mein (media also adds to the rumour),” he said.

Kapil added that on the field, there is only one aim of any athlete and that is to win whatever be the equation off it.

“There is no rumour when you are playing, I don’t think so. When you are inside the ground, there is no fight. Off the field, your thinking and approach can be different. But when you are playing, there is only one aim, i.e. how you can win the match. That is important. Difference of opinion does not mean you are pulling someone down,” he said.

When quizzed if he would be under any pressure ahead of selecting India’s next coach, Kapil said: “It is not tough. You do your job to the best of your abilities. When you don’t fulfill your responsibilities, then it becomes tough.”

The current coaching staff were handed an extension till the tour of the West Indies as their contracts expired after the World Cup. India will play three Twenty20 internationals, three ODIs and two Tests in the US and the Caribbean Islands.

Kapil on Thursday received the Bharat Gaurav award, East Bengal’s highest honour, despite a boycott campaign by a section of fans on Twitter.

Kapil had signed for East Bengal on June 22, 1992, and played for 27 minutes six days later as a substitute forward in an exhibition match against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan.

“I can understand up to one level that players are important. But if any club survives for 100 years, you must respect the spectators. They carry the club and the name,” he said.

Kapil also drew a parallel with the Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament of the world.

“We respect Wimbledon because they have a traditional way of playing on grass. Don’t lose your tradition whichever side you come from. I am more fascinated with the fans than the team as they have been supporting the club for 100 years.

“Tradition is everything. If tradition was not there we would not have been recognised as a Bengali, Punjabi, Tamilian… So we have a tradition that’s why we are here,” he said.

Kapil, who was flanked by present and former India football skippers Sunil Chhetri and Bhaichung Bhutia, respectively, was later joined by Sourav Ganguly as the two former captains exchanged pleasantries.

“It’s not my day. It’s football’s day. What people think about me is not important, what we think about football is more important. It’s me who is feeling proud to be sitting with the legends of the game,” he said.

Kapil also said that he is a Diego Maradona fan and the greatest moment he remembers is the ‘Hand of God’ incident in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

“It’s very unfair for me to give one name. A lot of people were there. In my time Pele had already retired, but Maradona was the one who was the star. I especially remember the Hand of God moment against England in 1986…it was such a strong statement.

“When the ball was on his feet, he was the quickest among all the athletes. He could run faster than anybody else. That’s what I used to look up to him,” he said.

Kapil added that he was dissuaded from playing a football match by his India teammates but he wanted to promote football.

“My teammates told me that ‘you should not get injured as the entire country was looking up to you’. I said ‘it does not matter, I come here for the game and the fitness that the sport offers’.

“I didnt play many football matches, but I really enjoyed football. Yes, I was not a footballer but was a part of the team who had come to promote the sport. My job was just to promote the game that time. Everybody wanted to play cricket. People like us should support other sports also,” Kapil said.

Asked to compare football with cricket, Kapil said: “Football’s level is way up and it is truly a world sport while cricket’s level is way down.

“It’s a very athletic sport and all cricketers like to play football. I strongly believe that you have to be a great athlete to play any sport and football gives you that edge,” he concluded.