Kapil Dev, India’s World Cup-winning captain, has revealed how he was terrified of his senior teammate Srinivas Venkataraghavan during his initial days in the team, hilariously recounting how he would always find himself at the receiving end of the off-spinner’s ill-temper.
Venkataraghavan, part of India’s famed spin-quartet of the 1960s and 1970s, was in the latter half of his career when Kapil Dev debuted for India in 1978. The spinner, who went on to become an ICC elite umpire, terrified Kapil to such an extent that the legendary all-rounder used to hide in a corner and have breakfast.
“I was too scared of him,” Kapil told former India batsman and current India Women coach WV Raman on YouTube. “Firstly, he would speak only in English and secondly, we all are aware of his anger. Even when he was umpiring, he would give not out in a way [as if he was scolding the bowler] – ‘Shut up and get out!’ When I went to England in ’79, he was my captain, I used to find a place where he can’t see my face.
“At that time, we had [Bishen] Bedi, [Erapalli] Prasanna, [BS] Chandrasekhar, so we [youngsters] couldn’t really say anything to them [seniors], and you’re looking for a scapegoat. He used to look at my face and fire [up]. I said, ‘I can’t even have breakfast around him’. I used to sit in one corner, behind a pillar [and have my breakfast] so that he can’t see my face, because I was a heavy eater and he would be like, ‘All the time he’s eating and not playing!’”
Kapil Dev was something else, wasn't he?pic.twitter.com/TBvh9Yqbus
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) June 13, 2020
Despite the constant scolding, Kapil grew fond of his senior because he felt Venkataraghavan brought “character” to the sport, comparing his lively personality to the likes of Diego Maradona and John McEnroe. Kapil further recalled how, even after he took over the captaincy reins, he would still be taken to task by Venkataraghavan, citing an incident from India’s tour to West Indies in 1983.
“We were playing a Test in Barbados,” Kapil said. “We had fast bowlers [operating] and the Barbados wicket was a bit bouncy, so we [the fast bowlers] were bowling more. For first change, I introduced Ravi Shastri as the first spinner. Venky started walking from the slips, looked at me and said ‘Kapil!’, I said ‘Yes, Venky!’ (By that time I had started calling him Venky, it was ‘sir’ before that).
“He said, ‘Did I say I don’t want to bowl?’ I didn’t know who was the captain me or him! I said ‘No Venky, your turn will come [to bowl]’. His nature was so lovable in the end. He would scold me despite me being the captain, I really didn’t know what to say!”