When you hear the name Kapil Dev, for an Indian cricket fan, the images that occupy the mind almost immediately are those that produce a smile. Born in Chandigarh in 1959, Kapil was never one to hold back and that was one of the driving factors which led to Indian cricket’s transformation.
Close to 40 years ago, he reached the highest point of his career as he led India to the World Cup title against all odds. His teammate of many a contest, Sandeep Patil, wrote, “It's difficult to express in words what Kapil means to Indian cricket; I could go on for days, or weeks, and never stop.”
In an international career that started in 1978 and went on till 1994, Kapil terrorised oppositions with his bowling, batting and fielding, too. He scored 5,248 Test runs, 3,783 ODI runs and picked 434 Test wickets and 253 ODI wickets.
As we celebrate the legend turning 62, here’s a look back at some of the iconic moments in his career.
1981: Five-wicket haul against Australia
That Kapil Dev could bowl fast was already well established and at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), India needed their ace to do what he does best. Handicapped by a thigh injury, Kapil, on Day 5 was instrumental to India’s cause as they skittled out the hosts for 83.
He bowled long spells and even refused to take a break as he finished with five wickets for 28 runs and led his side to a 59-run win. At a time, when fast bowlers and India weren’t considered to be very good combination, the man from Haryana helped break the glass ceiling.
1983: World Cup Final at Lord’s
Backs to the wall after a not so impressive batting performance, Kapil once again led the charge in the second half of the finals against the West Indies. Catches of Sir Viv Richards and Sir Clive Lloyd pegged the reigning champions back, who then failed to recover. The catch to dismiss Sir Viv is played over and over on the internet and was what led to the start of the turnaround in the final.
Kapil would go on to take a wicket, too, and along with Mohinder Amarnath was the pick of the bowlers for India, who won their first World Cup title.
1983: 175 Not Out vs Zimbabwe
This continues to be one of the saddest days for Indian cricket fans as they weren’t able to witness what was an absolute heroic effort from the captain. At 17/5, India were staring down the barrel against Zimbabwe, a match the broadcasters chose to skip on the day. India needed to win a couple of more games to reach the semis and it seemed difficult.
However, amidst the rhododendrons in full bloom at Turnbridge Wells on June 18, Kapil produced an innings of a lifetime that only a few witnessed. His 175 not out, with 16 fours and 6 maximums, wasn’t a very common feat in those days, and definitely not at the World Cup. “What we saw was a miracle unfolding in front of our eyes,” Sandeep Patil wrote.
His batting abilities had been on display in England earlier as well, with Sandeep Patil recalling Kapil’s 65 off 55 deliveries very fondly. “It was absolutely amazing, because I just stood still at the non-strikers' end, applauding Kapil's fluent stroke-play from the best seat in the house.”
1985: World Series Finals Win Over Pakistan
After the World Cup triumph in 1983, India’s credentials in ODI cricket continued to improve. Even during captaincy, the game of musical chairs continued, with Kapil leading the charge for India in his own inimitable way.
Against a formidable Pakistan team, he picked three quick wickets to set India on their way before Ravi Shastri took them over the line and himself to a brand new Audi.
Of the moment Kapil speaks fondly: “In a way, this was the most special moment for us as a team, even more, special than the World Cup win of 1983. A lot of people said our win in 1983 was a fluke, whereas in this tournament people believed that we were genuinely good enough to pick up the trophy.”
1986: India’s First Test Win at Lord’s
Prior to the tour, Kapil had led India in 20 Tests and had yet to register his maiden win as captain. Just six months prior to the England tour, India had muffed a golden opportunity to win their first ever Test series on Australian soil.
With India in the lead after the first innings, the skipper got going and bowled a terrific spell to dismantle England’s batting along side Maninder Singh. Kapil finished with four wickets and then smashed 23 not out off 10 deliveries to take India over the line for their first Test win at Lord’s.
1986: Tied Test against Australia in Chennai
The tied Test between India and Australia in Chennai in 1986 got forged in the folklore of Indian Test matches as Kapil Dev scored an unbeaten 119 in the first innings.
India made 397 in response to Australia’s 574/7d, which had Dean Jones making 210 and David Boon and Allan Border scoring centuries.
While this match is most remembered for the heroics of Dean Jones, Kapil ranks it as one of his favourite moments from his illustrious career. “I was very aggressive, hitting over cover, over mid-on, over mid-off, wherever I had the opportunity. I was more bothered with getting runs than defending my wicket,” said Kapil had told Wisden.
1990: Four Sixes to Avoid Follow-on at Lord’s
Back at the home of cricket, Kapil Dev’s batting abilities were once again at the forefront as India avoided the follow-on against Graham Gooch’s England. The hosts piled on the runs with Gooch scoring 333 and Allan Lamb and Robin Smith added centuries of their own, too.
Centuries from Ravi Shastri and Mohammad Azharuddin showed that India were fighting but were staring at a follow-on when Kapil was in the middle. At 430/9 India needed 24 more runs to avoid the follow-on. Kapil took on Eddie Hemmings and launched a brutal assault off the final four deliveries of the over with consecutive sixes over long on. He is the only batsman to achieve this feat in Tests.
Off the next over, his partner Narender Hirwani by Angus Fraser. Kapil remained unbeaten on 77, but it would eventually not be enough as England romped home to a 247-run win.
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