Legendary International Cricketer Kapil Dev

India have been blessed with many great batsmen and spin bowlers but they
have often suffered from a shortage of great fast bowlers and all-rounders. But in
Kapil Dev they had one of each. Kapil’s pace was in fact never of the express
variety (despite his nickname of the ‘Haryana Express’): fast-medium rather than
fast in his early years, and something less than that later on. But he had
seemingly endless reserves of bustling energy, swung the ball, and knew how to
take wickets.
Even though he lost some nip towards the end of a long career, his figures
remained impressive given the unhelpful bowling conditions in which he was
often operating. Only two other fast bowlers have taken 200 Test wickets for
India, Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath, and both had averages on the top side of
30, whereas Kapil’s 434 wickets – which stood as the world record for a few
years – cost 29.64 apiece. Of the seven India players to do the Test double of
1,000 runs and 100 wickets, Kapil is the only one who averaged more with bat
than ball.
Above all, though, Kapil earned a place in history as the man who captained
India to victory in the 1983 World Cup, a result that converted the subcontinent
to one-day cricket and astonished pundits who had written off his team as nohopers before the tournament. By doing his bit as a player – 12 wickets and 303
runs, 175 of which were plundered off Zimbabwe in an afternoon of mayhem at
Tunbridge Wells – he instilled the belief in his players that they could go all the
way, never more so than in the final when they were defending only 183 against
West Indies. He bowled 12 miserly overs and took a running catch on the
boundary to dismiss Viv Richards. India cricket being the fickle creature it is, he
lost the captaincy within a few months but regained it in 1985 and kept it until
India’s defence of the World Cup failed at the semi-final stage in 1987.
What also marked him out was his background. Born in Chandigarh and
raised in the countryside at a time when most Indian Test cricketers came from
middle-class families based in the big cities, he broke the mould.
Of the ‘Big Four’ Test all-rounders who dominated in the 1980s – Imran
Khan, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee were the others – Kapil was probably the
least dangerous bowler. His figures would certainly suggest that. But he was
very effective in his early years, making his Test debut at the age of 19 and
being instantly at home on the big stage as effortlessly as Botham. Kapil clocked
up the 1,000 run–100 wickets double within 15 months of his first game and the
2,000 run–200 wickets double in four and a half years. Kapil was just a
prodigious natural talent in everything he did. In those days, he did a lot of
twisting and turning in his action, but it got him sideways on and in a position to
swing the ball. He needed watching very carefully.
As a batsman, Kapil came closest to matching Botham for destructive and
entertaining hitting. Like Botham, he was far better than the ‘slogger’ label that
some might have attached to someone who so obviously delighted in finding the
boundary. He could strike the ball in classical fashion and was sound enough
technically to score three hundreds against West Indies pace attacks of various
vintages, on one occasion in 1983 seeing off Andy Roberts, Michael Holding,
Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner to make a game safe in Trinidad. In all, he
scored eight Test hundreds, two more than Imran.

Quite late in his career, at Port Elizabeth, he halted a rampaging Allan
Donald-led South Africa pace attack in its tracks with a superbly measured
counter-attacking century, scored almost entirely with the tail for company.
When he went in, India were 27 for five, which soon became 31 for six. Of
India’s eventual 215 all out, Kapil’s share was 129.
Kapil made something of a speciality of making light of a crisis. While others
fretted, he coolly went about fixing things with some measured blows. The
classic example of this, of course, was at Lord’s in 1990 in an epic Test, which
saw Graham Gooch score a triple century in the first innings and a mere single
one in the second, and one of the silkiest hundreds you could ever wish to see
from Mohammad Azharuddin. Kapil again found himself batting with the tail as
India battled to avoid the follow on. With 24 needed, and the last man in, Kapil
came on strike against Eddie Hemmings and spotted an opportunity few others
would have contemplated. He struck four straight sixes in four balls down
towards the Nursery End, where men in hard hats constructing the Compton and
Edrich Stands came under fire, and the job was done. It was fantastic to watch,
and very brave. Imagine if he’d got out attempting one of those shots?
Botham gets on very well with him. He loves him because of their shared
passion for golf – Kapil has developed into a phenomenal player and has various
business ventures linked to the sport – and their shared approach to cricket. They
played the game in the same uninhibited fashion and I think their desire to outdo
each other spurred them on. Both were close to their best in 1982 when England
and India faced each other for six Tests in India and three in England. In what
was a largely turgid series on the subcontinent, both hit hundreds in Kanpur,
Kapil batting in sparkling fashion for 116 off 98 balls. Then, in England, he hit
89 off just 55 balls at Lord’s – had he reached his hundred it could have been the
fastest in Test history to that point – followed by 65 off 55 balls at Old Trafford
and 97 off 93 balls at The Oval, where Botham himself scored a pretty rapid
double century