Professional cricketers talk about how they can spread the passion for the sport globally.
Kapil Dev, Former Indian Cricket Captain
Suresh Raina, Indian International Cricketer
He forced opposing batsmen to run for their helmets, infusing pace, swing and hostility, in a measured way, into the proceedings. Kapil was an integral member of the golden era for all-rounders – also consisting Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee – and for the decade and half he strode Indian cricket, was the man any fan would back to win a scrap on the cricket field.
A gifted player who made his India mark as a teenager in the toughest of venues, Pakistan, Kapil led the team’s pace attack for long, going on to finish as the world record for most Test wickets. As captain, he led from the front. Who can forget his sensational 175 not out to pull the team back from the brink against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup or the athletic effort to take the vital catch of Viv Richards in the final triumph against the West Indies? An achievement that helped transform India into the global cricket hub. His contribution to Indian cricket goes beyond the national colours, or whites. And when Kapil led Haryana to Ranji Trophy success, he sent a message to the smaller state sides that they can also dream big. Always available to help any pace bowler who seeks him out for help, Kapil was the ideal motivator during his tenure as India coach. An outspoken voice in the game, Kapil has never shied away from giving his take, whether it is on the players or the administrators.
He is India’s most successful Test captain and is regarded among the most influential cricket leaders of the modern game. Sourav presided over the destiny of the team after taking over as captain in 2000 in the middle of one of the most challenging periods in the game’s history, in the wake of the match-fixing scandal. Having made his India debut as a teenager to announce his talent, Sourav then demonstrated his resilience as he fought to make a grand comeback with back to back centuries in England on his Test debut in 1996. The man who became an integral part of India’s strongest batting line-up ever, presided over some of India’s most memorable victories, particularly infusing steel in a side to take on tough opposition overseas.
The 2001 home series victory over the all-conquering Australia, the 2002 NatWest Trophy success in England Sourav captaining the team to the World Cup final in southern Africa the next year are all part of the highlights of Indian cricket. Sourav also played a splendid mentoring role to many young players, like Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag, who went on to carve their name in the country’s cricket history.
After his retirement, the articulate ‘Bengal Tiger’ has gone on to quickly establish himself as a commentator, described by none other than the man whom he teamed up with so successfully – John Wright – describing him as the John McEnroe of cricket commentary.
One of India’s greatest players, Laxman is the consummate touch artist who can floor one with his humility outside the ground or with his sublime shots in it. One of the pillars in the golden era in India’s cricket, his decision to pursue the game meant the medical profession’s loss was international cricket’s gain.
His immense talent and tremendous work ethic did not help the ‘Very Very Special’ player escape trying times as an India cricket, but it is a tribute to his qualities as a model sportsman that he has kept flashing his wonderful smile through all that. As a batsman, he showed the courage to tell the selectors that if they wanted to get the best out of him, they should allow him to bat in the middle-order.
He single-handedly gave India their most memorable batting moment – smashing Australia’s formidable bowling attack to score a then Indian Test record 281 to snatch victory from defeat at Eden Gardens in 2001, a remarkable effort that turned the series on its head and gave India a great comeback victory.
One of the finest cricketing minds never to captain India, Laxman has stayed a leader on the field. He has provided resilience to India’s batting by nursing the lower order and tail-enders time and again. After announcing his India retirement, Laxman has taken on the responsibility to help guide Hyderabad to its former glory in Ranji Trophy – a fine example of giving back to the game.
As a youngster, Suresh Raina had to give up the comforts of his home and family to hone his skills as a cricketer in a sports hostel. He was rewarded for all that hard work as this left-handed batsman carried the flag for many talented players who have come up from smaller cricketing centres, other than major hubs like Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, and played for India.
As an India batsman, Raina demonstrated his cool temperament early in his career and quickly became a finisher in the Rahul Dravid-led one-day team. The unassuming player was the batsman the team often looked up to step in and guide the chase whenever India lost wickets early.
Be it his enthusiasm, friendly disposition or his brilliant fielding -- close to the bat or in the deep -- and his useful off-spin, they lift the team every time the players look for that extra effort to bounce back from tough situations.
A vital member of India’s one-day squad since 2005, he was part of the triumphant World Cup side at home last year. And Raina was the natural choice as stand-in captain for the limited-overs part of the West Indies tour that followed. He impressed with his leadership and guided the side to victory in both the one-off T20 international as well as the ODI series. His best in Test cricket is yet to come, but he has always demonstrated his unwavering focus, fighting qualities and a positive approach which should help him seal a regular berth in the longest format in the near future.
Ajay Jadeja, a regular on the Indian national cricket team in the 1990s, discusses the transformation of the game to suit modern audiences, which has shifted from traditional yet lengthy Test matches to the money- and statistics-driven Twenty20 league format.