Award-winner Kapil strengthened by ~~fix~~ trial by fire

Published: Thursday, July 25, 2002, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi: Legendary former Indian all-rounder Kapil Dev said on Thursday his Indian- Cricketer-of-the-Century award had restored his reputation after the trauma of being accused of match-fixing.

"I was deeply touched by this award," said the 43-year-old after being judged the best from a list of 16 nominees, including batting greats Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, by a panel of experts in London on Tuesday. "I've gone through great trauma in the last two years, but I feel that was a trial by fire from which I've emerged stronger. God is great," Kapil told the 'Times of India' in London. Team mate Manoj Prabhakar alleged two years ago Kapil had offered him money to under perform during the 1994 Indian tour of Sri Lanka. Millions of fans then saw their idol shed tears during a TV interview while denying the charges. Kapil continued to protest his innocence until he was finally cleared. "I don't have to prove my innocence to myself or to my supporters," said Kapil, who led India to a memorable victory over the West Indies in the World Cup final at Lord's in 1983. "But if even two percent people felt I was guilty, it rankled me. I hope this recognition will wipe the slate clean. What amazes me still, though, is how one man's word could have been given so much credibility and my entire life's work made into rubbish. I pray to God to give him (Prabhakar) brains and good thoughts." Kapil, who scored 5,248 runs and took 434 wickets in 131 Tests during his illustrious 16-year career, said natural ability was the key to his success. "I think I brought in fresh thinking because I was from a small town and had no fixed ideas. I was fearless and I made fitness important," said Kapil, who hails from the northern Indian city of Chandigarh. "From where I came, there was the bat and the ball, and do what you could with it. I was driven by destiny. I played by instinct and left it at that." Kapil said he considered Gavaskar as his mentor despite having brushes with the 'Little Master' during his playing days. "He was an outstanding cricketer," said Kapil, who was dropped from the Test squad by Gavaskar for playing a rash stroke against England in 1984-85 at home. "He gave us so much confidence. We learnt so much from him," Kapil said of Gavaskar, who holds the world record of 34 Test centuries. "We have had differences of opinion, but we were never enemies. We were team mates and played for the same cause. Nobody can take away his ability as player, as public speaker and writer. He is fantastic." Kapil, however, said the batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar's best was yet to come despite his impressive record in Tests and One-dayers. "To me, his best is yet to come," said Kapil. "But I fear for him. I feel he's missing out on the enjoyment of the game. There's too much pressure on him. He must enjoy. "If Sir Don Bradman says Sachin bats like him, we know how good he must be."

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