Imran Khan (R) and Kapil Dev (L)
Previous cricket World Cup winning captains Kapil Dev of India (L) and Imran Khan (R) of Pakistan in Mumbai on February 2, 2011. | INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
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If Koreas can think of coming together, Germany can be united, why can’t India and Pakistan have a better relationship, Kapil asks.

New Delhi: Kapil Dev, a friend of Pakistan’s prime minister-elect Imran Khan and one of Indian cricket’s all-time greats, said he believes Khan can carry his country’s powerful military and intelligence agencies together to ensure Pakistan’s progress.

Khan was also “an excellent captain who carried his team together”, said Kapil Dev, who began his international career in Pakistan in 1978.

Speaking to ThePrint in an exclusive interview, Kapil Dev referred to ties between New Delhi and Islamabad and said, if the “Koreas can come together, Germany can become one”, why can’t India and Pakistan have a better relationship? But he also insisted that improving cricketing ties would not be enough to improve relations between the neighbours.

In a wide-ranging interview, Kapil Dev unhesitatingly stated his faith in Imran Khan as a great captain, because he was “not a yes man”.

Painting a picture of Imran Khan as a man who may have led a flamboyant lifestyle (“his personal business”), Kapil Dev said it was hugely creditable that he had returned to Pakistan and joined politics and worked “very, very hard” for 22 years to achieve his goal.

“Most people only speak about reaching their goals, but Imran showed it can be done. It’s a great achievement that a fellow cricketer who played for his country, has become the top man in Pakistan,” Kapil Dev said.

‘Imran the cricketer showed character’

He told the story of how Imran was determined to change the international cricketing community’s impression in the 1980s that cricket was not played fairly in Pakistan.

“In the early ‘80s when you went to Pakistan, people used to say Pakistani umpires won’t let you win. So Imran said, ‘I want neutral umpires’.

Kapil Dev interview
Kapil Dev in an exclusive interview with ThePrint’s Jyoti Malhotra | theprint.in

“It was a big step. A person who takes a step as big as that is someone with character. He showed character (and said), ‘Let the umpires come from England and Australia…anyone who wants to play in Pakistan should have neutral umpires’. That was a very big step,” Kapil Dev said.

The main reason he could do that, Dev said, was because Imran “wasn’t a yes man. He won’t be a yes man. I don’t know how much success he will get (as prime minister), but he has to make a team, like in cricket. He has to take everybody along”.

‘Imran can influence the army’

Asked about Imran Khan’s relationship with Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, Dev added, “Knowing him, I’m sure he will (be able to) carry the country. People look up to him, He has a huge personality. He has done good things, built a cancer hospital. He hasn’t compromised with any negative person. If he can just take the country together, and the army also.

“Either you take the army or the army takes you, there are two ways of looking at it. I personally feel he can influence the army and say, let’s grow Pakistan together,” Kapil Dev said.

Dev said he remembered Imran as a shy man, who changed over the years and put his stamp on Pakistani cricket.

He pointed out that Imran’s was a great achievement because Pakistani cricketers come from all parts of the country, they are “ruthless and aggressive”, “gutsy and emotional”. Imran had such strong leadership qualities that he was able to mould them together in one team.

Kapil Dev even likened Imran Khan to a “dictator”, one who wanted his way and got it.

“When I first met him, he was very shy. He wasn’t ready to give his views. This was in 1978-79. Once he became captain of Pakistan, slowly he changed. Everybody realises one day who they are. When he became a captain, he was ready to give his views.”

‘Imran the captain had a touch of a dictator’

Asked if Khan was a good captain, Dev replied: “Not just a good captain, he was an excellent captain. Handling the Pakistani players is not easy. They are very aggressive people. The best thing about him is that he not only made them (into one) team, but people till today respect him as their captain.”

“When he said something, he had a touch of dictatorship in him…meaning, what I say, you have to do.

Kapil Dev spoke exclusively to ThePrint | Nayanika Chatterjee
Kapil Dev spoke exclusively to ThePrint | Manas Gurung

“He was ready to (stand) up for his team and say I want this team. He could tell the selectors, this boy is good enough for me, he is good enough for Pakistan, so he is good enough for you, the selectors. He was ready to take the challenge, which not many people can do,” Dev said.

‘Can’t have bad relations on border and play cricket’

Kapil Dev also spoke at length about India-Pakistan relations.

Just because both countries loved playing cricket or listening to music or participating in cultural activities, and despite the fact that “Pakistanis are very hospitable people, very wonderful people,” such activities could not be allowed to come in the way of government policies, Dev said.

“You cannot have bad relations on the border and play cricket inside. Improve relations and cricketers will never say we don’t want to play in the other country,” Kapil Dev said.

Dev, who has gone into the stadium lighting business since he gave up playing for India and coaching the Indian cricket team, pointed out that both countries want better relations, that it was “2 per cent” people holding up the wishes of “98 per cent” of the people.

“Biggest issue is let us have peace in this part of the world. If Koreas can get together, if Germany can become one, why not we in this part of the world who have a better relationship?

“They should stop firing on the border, stop the negativism. If you spend 20 per cent of money on the border, on security forces, you can spend that money on the growth of the country.”

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