The phone rang almost as soon as I completed a show on All India Radio where I was a guest, answering questions during the supper break in the Compaq Cup match between India and New Zealand on a hectic Friday. “Can I also ask you a question?” said the distinctively deep voice, whose owner answers to the name of Kapil Dev.
I have always valued feedback – criticism and appreciation – as being essential to any communication and hearing from Kapil Dev was a humbling experience. The immediate feeling was not of elation that India’s only World Cup winning captain called but of satisfaction that the show was being heard and elicited feedback.
“I also call Rakesh-saab,” he said during the conversation, alluding to former India leg-spinner Rakesh Shukla who was on the show called Kaun Banega Vijeta? To hear a man who had played 131 Tests for India without ever missing one on fitness grounds use the respectful saab for a man who played but one Test match in 1982 was, simply stated, delightfully humble.
Kapil Dev seemed to have the time and we got into a discussion about how he would even today stand up respectfully in the presence of his seniors and about how such traditions are handed down in the dressing room. I have seen Mohammed Azharuddin rise from his seat and stay on his feet until Sunil Gavaskar who arrived later sat down.
“Bishan-paaji will always be Bishan-paaji for me… never Bishan,” Kapil Dev said of his first captain Bishan Singh Bedi. “I cannot think of any other way. We have been taught the importance of respecting our seniors, even if we have some differences of opinion once in a while.
“Somewhere in the past decade or so, it appears that such traditions have been given the go by,” he said. The tone did not have either disgust or dissatisfaction. It was a mere statement of his perception. Perhaps it is reflective of the way modern society has shaped up in the recent years when the spheres of influence have grown expotentially.
Our conversation also touched briefly on how money can be one of those spheres of influence. “I have never been against players making money,” said the man who was at the spearhead of campaign in the 80s to ensure players got what was rightfully theirs. “But I have always believed that responsibility comes along with money.”
He hung up but my mind kept lingering on those words – responsibility comes along with money. With a lot of young cricketers making big money early in their careers, they have had little time to sit back and reflect on how critical it is to retain humility as a vital part of their overall persona.