Bring back the Cup and join our group: Kirti Azad

A cricketer and Member of Parliament, Kirti Azad, was one of the vital members of the Indian team that won the coveted World Cup trophy back in 1983. Known for his aggressive attitude, both on and off the field, Azad, in a candid chat with’s Swati Chaturvedi on her show Kahiye Janab, re-lives some of the most precious moments of that unparalleled triumph that rewrote the history of Indian cricket.

Swati: First of all, tell me what is the biggest difference between 1983 and 2011?

Kirti: The game is the same. It is the players who have changed…the times have changed. In our times we did not play as much. For instance, Virender Sehwag has played more one-day internationals than our entire team put together. However, a huge similarity between the teams is that both the captains (Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni) are aggressive. Before Kapil, captains used to play for a draw, but he changed that mentality. Same is the case with Dhoni…. Besides, they are both cool headed. Whether the situation is favourable or against you, both of them know how to keep composed.

Swati: You are aggressive, both on and off the field. Were people like you a minority in the team of 1983?

Kirti: I believe that offence is the best form of defence. If you feel a ball is there to be hit, it has to be hit.

Swati: Kapil wrote a new chapter in the history of Indian cricket. As you said, before him, captains were happy to play for a draw. But, more than the pressure on the field, there is also a mental battle to be won. How did he deal with that?

Kirti: I remember back in 1983, my dad and Kapil called me up to say that I had been selected in the Indian squad for the World Cup. I was playing county cricket in Lancashire at that time. I called up Mohinder Amarnath, who was also playing there. We were delighted and thought that even a semi-final place would be a great result. During those times, we did not face the kind of pressure that is there on the current players. But, the will to win is the same.

Swati: IPL has given huge money to cricketers, which can affect them in two ways. Either they become arrogant or they think that they’re worth it. Back in your time, people had to play county cricket for extra money. How do you think has money made a difference?

Kirti: In our times, we couldn’t imagine earning that kind of money in even 100 years. While the will to win is the same, the amount of money at stake is huge, which is also a motivating factor in a way as you won’t be able to earn if you don’t perform. After our victory in 1983, NKP Salve came up to us and announced a reward of 1 Lac, which would not have been even 5-10 thousand for each player. After that Raj Singh Dungarpur organised a concert of Lata Mangeshkar and announced a reward of 1 Lac for each player. That felt like huge money at that time.

Swati: Both cricket and Bollywood are considered to be religions in India. While other sportspersons have been seen touching politicians’ feet, no cricketer does that. Is it because politicians do not decide the fate of cricketers?

Kirti: That is one’s own thought. In my case, I touch my elders’ feet as a mark of respect. I do not think there is any harm in touching your guru’s feet.

Swati: You have played with Sachin and got him out too. He was just 10 years old when you won the World Cup and now a lot of people are saying that they want to win for Sachin. What do you feel when you watch him play?

Kirti: I remember the match clearly when I got him out. It was a Duleep Trophy match in Jamshedpur and Jadeja took the catch at short leg. Sachin’s hunger for runs is what keeps him going. I feel really proud to watch him bat.

Swati: What did Kapil tell the team when India were bowled out for just 183 in the final?

Kirti: We got out for just 183 and on top of that, West Indies had a really strong batting line-up. Players like Greenidge, Haynes, Richards and Llyod were all capable of winning a match on their own. At that point we thought that the match will not even go on till tea time. Kapil told us that it might not be a winning total, but we had to give it our best shot. Kapil’s catch off that Madan Lal over was the turning point of the match.

Swati: Who did you call up first after the win?

Kirti: Actually, we did nothing…called up nobody. We went to a nearby hotel where the dhols had already arrived from Southall. The Pakistan team members had also come. We drank so much champagne that nobody knew what happened till the next morning. I did speak to my father and mother, but it was really hard to hear anything in all that noise.

Swati: Who is your favourite player from the current team?

Kirti: I think Yusuf Pathan is the one player who can really make a difference. At number 7, he is the most useful player. He can also be used as a rotator.

Swati: Cricket is a team game. Do you think the present team has the kind of team spirit that was there in the `83 squad?

Kirti: The biggest thing that a team needs in order to perform consistently is team spirit. The present Indian team has been playing like a unit. They know their strengths and limitations. We had the same feeling in 1983. Although Sunil Gavaskar was a senior, we joked with him and he took it in good humour. If we take all these factors into account, it is safe to say that the present Indian team is the best.

Swati: What are India’s chances of winning the Cup this time?

Kirti: Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and it is really hard to predict anything. All the teams are good. I am an Indian so there will be slight bias. South Africa, Australia, England are all doing well. Sri Lanka does not have any big names but can spring up a surprise. Pakistan, too, are unpredictable.

Swati: Pakistan possesses the same talent as India, but it has collapsed. What do you think is the reason?

Kirti: I remember watching an interview of Imran Khan a few years ago. He said that the domestic structure in Pakistan is very bad. So what he did was that he brought talented youngsters directly to practice in front of him. That’s how he found Inzamam and Akram. If you have such a person who can identify talent then he can make a good team. Pakistan’s biggest problem is their bad domestic infrastructure.

Swati: What message do you have for Team India?

Kirti: I want to tell the Indian team that we have a photograph of the 15 members with the World Cup. But we have been standing alone for the past 28 years. Bring back the Cup and join our group!

Adapted by: Vaibhav Arora

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