A gloomy morning on Tuesday was brightened a bit when you saw him at Old Trafford, going about his duty as a guest radio commentator for 'Channel 2,' during the first World Cup semifinal between India and New Zealand. Flashing that famous toothy grin, Kapil Dev spread radiance at this historic venue, which holds a special significance in his heart.
It was here on June 22, 1983, that he led India to a six-wicket win over England in the semifinal of the World Cup. It was the upset before the big upset when India would go on to stun the West Indies by 43 runs and clinch the final.
While Kapil, arriving here from the US where he was on a business trip, wasn't in a mood to recall that game in particular, muttering "it was too long back," he did admit that the Old Trafford on which he and his 'Devils' created magic has changed beyond recognition by now. "The pitch has become sideways. During our days, it was different. The direction of the pitch has changed. I can't really relate to the same ground now," Kapil told TOI here.
Naturally, the legendary all-rounder was happy to see India's stylish march to the semifinals by topping the group in the league stage. "I feel proud of our team. Things have changed a lot in the last few years and we are a major force in world cricket. It's great to see a team which is athletic and doing well on the field," Kapil said.
The only glitch in India's otherwise flawless campaign has been the criticism that former captain MS Dhoni has received over his strike rate (it's 93.30). "It's very unfair to criticise Dhoni. It has happened to those who have been rated as all-time greats. They are not going to be 20 all over again," stressed Kapil, while defending Dhoni.
"The most important thing is Dhoni is doing good as far as the team is concerned. He may not be meeting the expectations of the public. The biggest problem is we expect so much from our heroes. He is doing a fabulous job for the team and an integral member of the thinktank.
"With an aggressive Virat (Kohli) as a captain, it's ideal to have someone with a calming effect like him. His wicketkeeping is good, and as I said, he can't be as good as he was when he was 20 or 23," felt the 60-year-old.
Just one ball into the semifinal, India lost their review option when a Bhuvneshwar Kumar delivery was found to have missed Martin Guptill's leg stump. Kapil felt that one review wasn't proportional to an encounter as big as a World Cup knockout clash.
"They (the ICC) should consider increasing the number of DRS reviews, especially for the knockouts. Why not two or three? Let it take five more minutes. Having just one DRS review for an important knockout stage is not fair. One run or a wicket can change the game," said the former India captain.
The man with 434 wickets in 131 Tests is impressed by India's current fast bowling department. "Not just (Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohammad) Shami has been excellent throughout the World Cup. A few years ago, no one expected Bumrah to reach this level. With a 10-yard run-up, it's not easy to clock 145kmph regularly. You need a lot of ability to generate speed. This guy is incredible," praised Kapil.
Talking about Kohli's captaincy, Kapil said: "As we all know, he is different from Dhoni and very aggressive. Every captain is unique. He has done extremely well in the World Cup."