Kapil Dev, the name and the cricketer needs no introduction at all and yet he is known by numerous titles. Haryana Hurricane is probably the most famous one of them and if we go by the number of batsmen he literally blew away with his bowling, the most apt one too.
There are various facets of his game and career that we can and will throw light upon but the title that he was sworn by is the perfect description of the man – ICC Indian Cricketer of the Century. Indian cricket has always been a breeding ground for the best of batsmen and largely spinners but always lacked a player who could lend the perfect balance to the team and have an impact on the game through both bowling and batting. That was until Kapil Dev arrived.
Kapil Dev was a true match winner and could single handedly turn the game on its head through his batting, bowling or fielding and was worth his weight in gold for all 16 years that he served the Indian cricket team as a player. He debuted against arch rivals Pakistan in 1978 and since then took Indian cricket to a different level altogether. In fact Kapil Dev was the first Indian captain to lead the team to the world cup glory. World Cup 1983 has been and will always be one of the fondest memory for Indian cricket fans and the win could not have been possible had Kapil not been there. Cricket is a team sport and each and every player is vital for a team’s performance and almost everyone contributed but as they say, one who rises to the occasion becomes the champion and Kapil rose and how. Whenever defeat lurked around, Kapil faced it and beat it into submission. For instance, Indian batting was in dire straits during the semi final match against Zimbabwe as they had lost 5 wickets for just 17 runs and the match had all but slipped out of their hands but that’s when Kapil Dev entered the scenario and painted it into Indian colours in no time. When the Indian innings ended, Kapil Dev walked back into the pavilion with the scorecard reading 175 not out against his name. India beat Zimbabwe and collapsed yet again in the finals against the mighty West Indies and folded for just 183 runs. In what could have been a comfortable chase for the West Indies, Kapil Intercepted once again as he ran backwards to take an unbelievable catch to dismiss the great Sir Vivian Richards and jolt the West Indians to halt them short of the target. That was the worth of the man that he could win us matches miraculously from nowhere.
Kapil Dev had the world record for most number of test wickets when he retired from the game in 1994 and is still the only player in the world to have scored more than 5000 international test runs along with taking more than 400 test wickets but there was one more thing that worked as effectively as the famous Kapil Dev out swinger and that was the belief that he instilled in youngsters from smaller cities – a belief that they belonged to the big scene. Indian cricket traditionally was dependent on the bigger centres like Delhi and Mumbai and smaller cities often got overlooked. In that era, the sports facilities and the club cricket structure was not good enough to get their players noticed on the national stage and all that changed after Kapil Dev made India proud. He came from Haryana and conquered the world cricket and that motivated the young and aspiring sportsmen to dream big. It was nothing short of a phenomenon.
What Kapil Dev has given to the Indian Cricket cannot be measured in numbers or statistics. The joy, the memories the excitement, the belief, the confidence that he continues to give to generations can never be matched. Kapil the hard hitting batsmen, the dangerous fast bowler, an inspiring fielder a true spirited sportsman is still hard to replicate.
On the birthday of the Indian Cricketer of the Century – Kapil Dev, we would like to wish and thank him a lot.