Assistant coach Paul Farbrace has no intention of letting England be distracted ahead of the third Test in the West Indies – either by internal changes or external barbs.
– INTERVIEW: Kapil Dev calls for India return for Yuvraj Singh
England are 1-0 ahead going into Friday’s decider in Barbados, in sight of a first away series victory since India in December 2012.
But they are also striving to keep other agendas out of their eyeline, with the England and Wales Cricket Board currently courting a highprofile director of cricket to take responsibility for the national side and a first Ashes gauntlet already laid down by Steven Smith.
There has thus far been more speculation than clarity around the recruitment of a new supremo – a position created after managing director Paul Downton was sacked at the start of the Caribbean tour.
And that is why Farbrace is content to let the process take its course while he helps prepare the team for action.
“You know in international sport you know that results are what it’s all about and if you’re not winning you know you’re under pressure, but you can’t worry every day about what might happen,” he said.
“We have to think solely about what’s going on the field, we can’t be distracted by what’s going on off the field.”
Farbrace hinted that England could name an unchanged XI, with Ben Stokes and Chris Jordan both getting a firm nod of approval to carry on balancing a four-man pace attack alongside James Anderson
Possessing the ability to devastate with both ball and bat, Kapil Dev lit up a golden period in cricket history. He was a colossal figure during his 1980s pomp, blessed with devilish swing, bounce and an eye for the spectacular.
– England: David Lloyd calls for IPL window
This was the decade of the all-rounders. Huge figures such as England’s Ian Botham, Pakistan’s Imran Khan and New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee dominated heavyweight clashes dictated by players on the path to legendary status.
Yet the Chandigarh-native had the awe-inspiring knack to separate himself from such esteemed company.
An international career which burst to life as captain of India’s 1983 World Cup winners, ended 11 years later with him being the only player in the record books to have taken more than 400 wickets and scored more than 5,000 runs in Tests.
Throw in the award of Wisden’s Indian Cricketer of the Century in 2002 and it is clear he possessed unbridled talent.
The current India team is not blessed with such a well-rounded box-office figure, jack of all trades Ravindra Jadeja excelling regularly as a spinner rather than batsman.
Their most explosive overall talent Yuvraj Singh has gone more than a year without donning his national jersey, sidelined as they endured an unsatisfying run to the 2015 World Cup semi-finals.
Speaking to Sport360° at the inaugural Icons Cup golf event at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Dev pressed the case for the maverick’s return.
He said: “Yuvraj is the most talented cricketer we have, without a doubt. That he has survived so much in his life is an achievement in itself, it is not easy to talk about that [Singh recovered from cancer in 2012].
“He had such a rough time in life. He is a gifted cricketer. Cricketers like him bring people to the ground. That is so important.
“You require heroes, a player of character. [Tennis legend] John McEnroe was a character and [football icon] Diego Maradona was a character. I find Yuvraj is one as well. He is not someone who will go out onto the ground and come back without doing something. Whether it is fielding, batting or bowling, his character is there. I watch him and think, ‘I couldn’t do that’.”
It is impossible not to be enthused by Dev’s all-encompassing approach to sporting drama, clearly viewing character as a vital part of any sportsperson’s armoury. The graceful 56-year-old possesses it in spades.
It was never more prominent than when West Indies icon Viv Richards top-edged high into the Lord’s sky during the 1983 World Cup final. Dev, holding his nerve as he raced from mid-on to deep midwicket to nervelessly hold a key catch, spurred the 66-1 pre-tournament outsiders to the trophy.
“Every cricketer has something to offer,” he said.
“Ian Botham had a very big character, you cannot hide it – Viv Richards, too. It is not only how you play. It is your mannerisms, too.
“[Pakistan record scorer in Tests] Javed [Miandad], for good or bad, he had a great character. He couldn’t hide it on or off the field. Players like that make the game bigger and richer.”
One development which has certainly made the game “richer”, financially, has been the introduction of the Indian Premier League. The T20 competition has been gathering the greatest and most explosive players on the planet since its 2008 inauguration.
Would Dev have wanted to be involved if it had been around in his day?
“It doesn’t matter if it is 20 overs, 50 overs or a Test,” he replied.
“The best players just want to play. My style of cricket would definitely have made it easier to play IPL but I have no complaints [with my career], I had a wonderful time.”
The Test arena was where ‘The Haryana Hurricane’ enjoyed some of his finest moments.
Despite nursing a hamstring complaint, he produced one of the most ruinous fast-bowling spells to gain figures of five for 28 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 11, 1981 as India defended a total of 143 to avoid series defeat in Australia for the first time.
He could be just as brutal with the bat, a cavalier 89 off 55 balls in the 1982 second Test in England included 13 fours and three sixes.
The long form of the game rarely looks as vivid now when compared to the gala IPL. Test crowds have shrunk in most nations, but Dev believes Tests remain a vital part of the scene, equating the variety in cricket to people’s differing tastes in movies genres.
The former India coach said: “Authorities have to balance it out. It depends on how they want to look after the game. Everybody wants to see action, in today’s world people cannot sit for five days. People can give a few hours, bring their kids to the cricket.
“IPL has brought people back to the grounds. We should thank ODIs and T20s for the improvements in fielding and batting. Teams nowadays will not think twice about chasing 140 runs in 20 overs. In our time, 110 runs in 20 overs seemed a big task.
“There are different types of entertainment. Some people want to watch an action movie, while others want a romantic movie. Some people can’t watch Test cricket, while others think it is the pinnacle of cricket. It depends on what you want to see.”
Dev exudes dignity and gravitas, his standing making him a natural choice for an ICONS Cup event which showcased outstanding figures from a variety of sports including boxing’s Oscar De La Hoya, cricket’s Shane Warne and football’s Andriy Shevchenko.
His return to Dubai brought back fond memories of the regular Pakistan-India clashes from the 1980s and 1990s, including a personal highlight from a career full of standout matches.
“It’s wonderful to be back in Dubai,” he said.
“When I first arrived in 1980 or 1981, this place was not one you would want to talk about. But in thirty five years, the world has changed. I can remember the sand all around, but today there is so much greenery, you cannot believe it is the same place.
“We did not play very well in Sharjah. Pakistan beat us most of the time. But coming to Dubai was very exciting. We shopped a lot and met different people – it was wonderful.
“One match I cannot forget was in Sharjah [the first match in the Rothmans Four-Nations Cup on March 22, 1985].
“We were out for 125 and we got them out for less than 100 [87, with Dev taking three wickets]. That was really exciting.”
Mominul Haque scored 80 as Bangladesh made an impressive start in the first Test against Pakistan in Khulna yesterday, reaching 236 for four by stumps on the opening day.
The talented 23-year-old left-hander batted fluently to pass 50 for the 12th time in his first 13 Tests before being trapped leg-before by Zulfiqar Babar in the last over of the day.
Opener Imrul Kayes made 51, Mohammad Mahmudullah scored 49 and Shakib Al Hasan was unb-eaten on 19 after the hosts elected to take first strike in good batting conditions at the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium.
Mominul has scored a half-century or more in his last 10 Tests. Only four batsmen – Viv Richards of the West Indies, South Africa’s AB de Villiers and the Indian duo of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag – have scored more 50s in consecutive Test matches.
— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) April 28, 2015
“I think we are in a good position, but if I had not been out we would have been on top,” Mominul said after the day’s play.
“Surviving here is easy, but scoring runs is difficult.”
Mominul put on 40 for the second wicket with Imrul, 95 for the third with Mahmudullah and 49 for the fourth with Shakib as Pakistan’s bowlers toiled for success on an unhelpful pitch.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah, off-break bowler Mohammad Hafeez, left-arm seamer Wahab Riaz and left-arm spinner Zulfiqar claimed a wicket each, but Pakistan were let down by shoddy catching and fielding.
The most expensive let-off was by Zulfiqar, who spilled a simple return catch when Mominul was on 17.
Yasir broke a 52-run opening stand between Tamim Iqbal and Imrul just before lunch by having Tamim (25) caught at forward short-leg by Azhar Ali.
— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) April 28, 2015
Yasir, who had missed the preceding limited-overs series due to injury, ended the day with figures of one for 58 in 18 overs.
Imrul survived a strong leg-before appeal off the third ball of the innings from Junaid Khan as the TV umpire turned down Pakistan’s review.
Hafeez, who dropped Tamim at leg slip off Zulfiqar when he was on 16, made amends by taking a return catch to dismiss Imrul after lunch.
Pakistan had to wait for almost two hours for their next success, which came after tea when wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed dived to his right to remove Mahmudullah off Wahab’s bowling.
Azhar, who led Pakistan in the one-dayers before making way for Misbah-ul Haq in the Tests, said the day’s honours were shared after the dismissal of Mominul in the last over.
— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) April 28, 2015
“Obviously after picking Mom-inul’s wicket we are happy,” he said.
“It has raised the team’s spirits and hopefully we can dismiss them early tomorrow.”
Bangladesh handed Test debuts to Soumya Sarkar and fast bowler Mohammad Shahid, while Pakistan picked uncapped batsman Sami Aslam for the opening match of the two-Test series.
Pakistan also ignored senior off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, preferring to go in with two specialist slow bowlers in Zulfiqar and Yasir.