Tearful Kapil lost an opportunity to counter allegations

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Saturday, May 13, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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If mere tears could wash away dark blotches on his high reputation, then Kapil Dev might well consider himself of having achieved it in Face to Face with Karan Thapar on BBC, last Wednesday.

When it comes to the crunch, however, the heartless world of legalities will demand much more than just bleary eyes and choked emotion.

It was sad indeed to see a cricketing hero weep copiously in front of a world audience to relate a kind of helplessness hardly ever associated with the man. Having known Kapil Dev as a player, as I do, I expected him to counter the allegations more astutely, in the manner that he had single-handedly turned a hopeless situation into a winning one at Turnbridge Wells, after India were reduced to 17 for 5 against Zimbabwe, in the 1983 World Cup.

That brilliant knock of 175 by the then Indian captain, remains to date one of the finest ever played. His reputation, however, has taken a beating from allegations made by his former colleague Manoj Prabhakar, who for reasons best known to him, had concealed the name for more than five years

While Prabhakar claimed that Kapil Dev had approached him with a bribe of Rs 25 lakh to underperform in a match against Pakistan in the Singer Cup at Colombo in 1994, 'Outlook' magazine revealed that he was in receipt of Rs 1.25 crore from a bookmaker in Mumbai during the India-New Zealand series in the same year.

Whether Kapil Dev did, or did not, make the offer to Manoj Prabhakar is as much dependent, for its ultimate credibility, on the word of the great all-rounder against that of another of lesser class, who nevertheless claims to have hard and acceptable evidence with him.

It was all the more important, therefore, for Kapil Dev to have used the opportunity of making himself heard world over with greater conviction than by resorting to the maudlin. He may have momentarily earned some sympathy, but so also had Hansie Cronje, when the South African captain's name was first mentioned in a match-fixing controversy, through the transcript of telephonic conversations presented by the Delhi Police.

Let us, for a moment, turn to 1994, the year that marks the beginning of the present dark phase in the history of the game. The aficionados will recall that both Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar were struggling to hold their places in the team. While his batting no more had the exciting touch about it, the former India captain was just hanging on to overtake Richard Hadlee's world record-haul of Test wickets.

Prabhakar too was on the verge of making an exit from the team. The selectors were just waiting to find an apt replacement. He had also fallen out of favour with the influential coterie in the team.

He may have been somewhat of a rustic when he first came into the Indian team in 1978, but one did ascribe great cricketing intelligence to Kapil Dev by the time the captaincy was conferred on him just before the 1983 World Cup.

It would, therefore, have been naive on anyone's part to think that Kapil Dev, the most experienced player in the Indian team in 1994, would have believed that he could alter the outcome of a match negatively for his team by touching upon just one player, and a faded one at that, like Manoj Prabhakar. Asking a player, who was not performing at all, to underperform was akin to flogging a dead horse.

As it is, in the whole worldwide controversy, match-fixing is the most loosely-used expression. It is so difficult to fix the outcome of any match, much against the tide of prevailing form. It will require the support of three to four key players in the side, one of whom has to be the captain, because of his power of control, to be able to just attempt, far from accomplishing a "fix." In 1994, Kapil was not even the captain.

It is so because just one player, with a cameo innings, or a brilliant spell of bowling, can spoil the party, as did Lance Klusener at Nagpur, a match, which according to the transcript of the telephonic conversation between Hansie Cronje and bookie Sanjeev Chawla, South Africa were to lose by scoring no more than 260 runs. Klusener alone changed all that by performing positively, to his known form and against the secret designs of his captaincy.

Why did Kapil not present a logical argument instead of constantly harping on "I am fed with this third party accusations. Let them come in front, whoever they are."

Well, the great allrounder did come face to face with the opportunity to speak his lines, but he tearfully muffed them.

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