Indian cricket legend Dilip Vengsarkar opens up on the Chetan Sharma sting row, the advantages of the IPL, Kabir Khan's film '83', and much more in a candid chat with The Free Press Journal.
It is a little difficult to believe that the man who takes quick, long strides after couple of hours at the gym completes 67 today or is a grandfather to a three-year-old toddler.
Standing tall at 6ft. 3inches, Dilip Vengsarkar is as handsome as I remember him when he came to the college, as an alumnus, for a function and I first saw him closely around 35 years ago – a near human version of the M&B tall, dark, handsome description.
But the most endearing thing about him, then, was his ‘down-to-earth’ attitude with zero arrogance. And that has remained his most important trait till date is what I realise when he sits down like an old friend in the MCA lobby for a chat.
“Shoot!” he says with his signature dimpled smile.
“Let’s start with a controversy?”
He just looks at me quizzically.
“Chetan Sharma’s exit as Selection Committee Chairperson? Even your exit was equally sudden…”
“My exit was sudden because they changed the rules saying members can’t be selectors or something like that. But it was obvious that they wanted to sack the entire committee at that time and bring in a new committee,” Dilip reveals.
“With Chetan, it was his bad luck that he exposed the board’s internal matters, though unknowingly, to the media. That’s not done. He was just about to get reinstated after being dismissed in November last year.”
Do you agree with what he said about the board? “I don’t want to comment on it. I don’t know the details. I just know the bits and pieces that were available in media. I have no right to comment.”
Form & fitness both equally important for selection
I’m a little surprised and move on to my next one. What is more important to be selected – form or fitness? “Both are equally important. You can’t be in a good form if you are not fit enough. And in today’s day and age there are physios who train them regularly, nutritionists, dieticians etc. No player is selected without consulting the doctors and physios about his fitness,” he promptly replies. “In our days, we didn’t have a physio traveling with us… we didn’t even have a coach. Only Man Singh – manager, doctor, coach all rolled into one – travelled with us even to the World Cup in 1983.”
Too many injuries due to too much cricket
Then why are there more injuries these days; more than there were in your times? “The reason is quite obvious. We played only one format most often – the Tests. And some ODIs during the year. Today, there is one more format T20. The players are playing for the country for all the three formats, for their state, for the leagues… they are human beings not machines. Even machines need rest and overhauling time. Obviously, there is going to be fatigue leading to injuries.”
What’s the solution for that? “We should rotate players. Have a scheduled rest time. All should be given good time to rest and rejuvenate before playing the next match.”
'IPL one of the best things in Indian cricket'
Do you think the IPL is affecting them adversely? “I think IPL is one of the best things that has happened to Indian cricket,” Dilip says.
“It has given an opportunity to our players to play with best international cricketers and learn from them. It has also given the local players a platform to showcase their talent. Guys from smallest town, state get a chance to play and display their capability to the world and selectors. Another positive thing is that due to IPL good grounds are being prepared across the country as the matches are played everywhere now. Smaller organisations, academies are also being funded and this is promoting the game,” Dilip elucidates.
“And the money! IPL has made the players richer – even the ones who are just entering the game get good money,” he chuckles.
Vengsarkar lauds BCCI for launching WPL
What’s your take on the WPL? “BCCI has done a tremendous job in organising WPL, which not only offered huge sums of money but also the exposure to the budding women cricketers. This will encourage more women to take it up as a career.”
Talking about the 1983 World Cup, do you think you missed the bus there? Your performance against West Indies in the series immediately after was brilliant with three centuries. But that one injury robbed you off the World Cup glory? You looked quite fit later… “Honestly speaking, yes… I was fit for the semis and final. But I didn’t think it was appropriate to break the rhythm of the winning combination. The team was doing great. I didn’t want to disturb them. Winning the Cup was more important,” Dilip graciously admits.
'Ranveer did a brilliant job as Kapil in 83'
Did you see the film? “Yes. Liked it. Ranveer Singh has done a brilliant job as Kapil Dev. He must have really worked hard to get the body language and accent right.” What about Adinath who played him in the film? “He was good. Poor guy had to get hit by the plastic ball!” Dilip laughs.
Kapil had used the ‘mongoose’ bat for the famous innings against Zimbabwe. Today the bat is banned. Why? “I am not really aware why they banned the mongoose. ICC has not banned it,” Dilip mentions. “Quite a few of us used special bats in my time. Sunil’s blade was longer, Vishy’s handle was shorter,” he adds. And you? “I used a normal bat that was available.”
How Dilip Vengsarkar got the nickname of 'Colonel'
Known as Colonel after the legendary CK Nayadu, Dilip Vengsarkar comes across as a contended person. “It was during an Irani cup match that I got this name,” Dilip shares. “I had scored a century by hitting seven sixes against Bedi and Prasanna. Lala Amarnath as a commentator on AIR said that I bat like Colonel CK Nayadu. The name stuck to me from then, thanks to the media.”
What plans for birthday? “Excited! Pallavi (daughter), who is in Dubai, is coming with my grandson. What better way to celebrate?”
Does he feel he should have been born a little late and playing today? “Oh yes! There are more facilities, bats are better… good food… we waited for people to invite us to a meal when we travelled… today there are nutritionists that travel with the team! And oh yes… there’s more money! And who wouldn’t want that?” the Colonel signs off.
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