Kapil Dev has said MS Dhoni's team has the ability to win the World Cup in 2011 but will have to ensure that it finds a settled combination and keep its bowlers free of injuries. In an exclusive interview with ESPNcricinfo, Kapil, who was captain when India won the World Cup in 1983, said too many changes taking place before the World Cup could harm the team's thinking.
"They have maturity, ruthlessness, they have talent and ability," he said of the team, but added, "too many injuries are taking place." Their key focus, he said, should be on improving fielding and running between wickets.
One reason for the bowlers' frequent injuries was, he felt, that their training was not suited for their skill. Kapil said he spent time through his 15-year career working on his legs. "The gym is good enough for batsmen and other kinds of bowlers. But for the fast bowler, someone who has to bowl day in and day out , around 10 to 20 overs, you need strong legs.
"These boys should spend a lot of time on running, like a marathon. Your body should be tuned to that." Injuries to fast bowlers, Kapil said, happen "when you have more muscle on top and your legs cannot support them."
Kapil, India's most successful fast bowler with 434 Test wickets, said he focussed on his running during the off-season - then pointed out that nowadays there is barely an off season for cricketers. It was the BCCI's responsibility, he said, to prevent cricketers from burning out - cricketers themselves were unlikely to take that call due to the financial benefits of a career in the game. "The boys walk into the team and they perform well in the first year. Then they play all kinds of cricket. They have Test cricket, they have Twenty20, they have one-day cricket the pressure is so much, and the young boys don't want to lose the money because they have struggled so much, almost 6-7 years to come to this level.
"They don't want to miss a penny wherever they get a chance, so they don't want to miss matches... If you tell a fast bowler 'you take rest and don't make money', I think mentally no sportsman will be ready for that. So it's up to the administration to see how much cricket our boys play."
The recent increase in an Indian cricketer's workload has come from the IPL. Kapil, who was associated with the rival, unauthorised Indian Cricket League, said cricketers need to have more control over the IPL. "Definitely, without any doubt (there is a need for cricketers to have more control). And not just be there on the board, but cricketers have to take the front seat." That, he said, was how he saw his role in the ICL.
He said he did not regret being a part of the ICL. "No, I think it was absolutely correct because the ICL has given the cricketers a push. If the IPL has come today, it's a compliment to the ICL, so it's not something wrong."
One of the biggest advantages of the new leagues was the financial benefits they gave to players. "Earlier there were only 10-12 cricketers in India who used to make money; today 300-500 cricketers can make a living out of cricket. I am happy something new began and those types of leagues are going to come up in the country."
In the aftermath of the spot-fixing controversy, Kapil said one way of preventing the rise of the player-bookie nexus was to ensure younger players were mentored and advised by their seniors. "You need good people to handle them (young players) and keep talking to them... They need more advice about becoming true cricketers, basically from senior cricketers who take pride to play for the country."