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How a passing remark helped Kapil Dev create his legacy

Kapil Dev is regarded as India
Kapil Dev is regarded as India's greatest fast bowler (Photo: Twitter)
ANALYST
Modified 06 Jan 2021
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It was in the 1980 Test in Chennai (then called Madras) when a tearaway 21-year-old Kapil Dev blew away the touring Pakistan side with a match haul of 11 wickets and a brisk 84.

India's ten-wicket win against a star-studded Pakistan that comprised Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan and Asif Iqbal gave India an unassailable 2-0 lead.

For modern cricket fans, the mention of 'India', 'Pakistan' and 'Chennai' transports them to the Sachin Tendulkar classic in that heartbreaking loss in 1999 or the scars inflicted by Saeed Anwar in 1997. Or more recently, the MS Dhoni ton that went in vain.

However, the happiest moment for an older Indian fan involving the three words mentioned above was that January 1980 Test, which seemingly belonged to a different era.

In the next Test, Kapil Dev went on to achieve a special milestone, the motivation for which was planted in a camp in the mid-1970s. More on that later.

This is not about that Madras Test. It's more about the man who gave Indian cricket that moment and a plethora of similar joys.

Stacked up against all odds, more often than not, he would take up the challenge and rise to the occasion. For the records, 279 of his 434 Test wickets came through the toil in the parched subcontinent. Be it 1980 Madras, 1981 Melbourne or 1983 Tunbridge Wells, Kapil Dev would set it alight with his self-belief.

That has been the hallmark of Kapil Dev's career and arguably his most significant contribution to Indian cricket.

On that note, let us have a look at an anecdote from Kapil Dev's early teenage days: an incident that spoke volumes of his character and how it motivated him to become India's greatest fast bowler. 

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Kapil Dev, a budding fast-bowling all-rounder in spinner's la-la land

Kapil Dev
Kapil Dev

Let's talk of an instance from another Chennai Test, one that was held in 1973 when Chennai was known as Madras.

After England elected to bat first, Eknath Solkar and Sunil Gavaskar shared the new ball on Day 1 of that Test. They were meant to bowl three overs of gentle medium pace to take off the new ball's shine before Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Erapalli Prasanna would took charge.

At times, Abid Ali would undertake the job of taking the shine off the ball or providing a breather to the spinners. 

While the concept of fast bowling was a foreign one in Indian cricket, a teenager with dreamy eyes from Haryana - Kapil Dev - was hurling the ball quick, awaiting to make his mark in the big stage.

Kapil Dev was 15 when he was invited for a BCCI summer camp under Colonel Hemu Adhikari at the Brabourne Stadium.

Arguably India's first world-class fielder during his playing days, Colonel Adhikari, an army man, was a strict disciplinarian and had laid out stringent rules for the camp.

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There would be no water during the practice sessions, which was a massive challenge to counter the Bombay (now Mumbai) heat and humidity. What exacerbated matters was the inadequate food – two chapattis and dal.

Keki Tarapore (not to be confused with the coach who trained Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble) was the Cricket Club of India (CCI) secretary and in-charge of the meals. After a tiring workout, Dev walked up to Tarapore in front of the other boys and complained about the quantum of food:

"I don't like the food, sir. I am a fast bowler, and I need more food."

A left-arm spinner, Keki Tarapore had played a Test for India way back in 1948. Those were the times when one was conditioned to dismiss the idea of fast bowlers or medium pacers, as their job was just to take the shine off the ball.

He laughed at the young Kapil Dev's statement and said:

"There are no fast bowlers in India."

It was a hurtful judgement but not entirely untrue. However, the remark didn't go down well with Kapil Dev. Though he got the meal he asked for, he took those words to heart. Kapil Dev bowled would bowl exceedingly fast and emerge as one of the finest fast bowlers in the world in a few years.

Four years later, Kapil Dev would debut for India. After dismantling Pakistan in the January 1980 Madras Test, Kapil Dev became the youngest player to complete the double of 100 wickets and 1,000 runs in the Kolkata Test that followed.

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Kapil Dev remained grateful to Keki Tarapore for unknowingly motivating him and also met him at a function.

"I just went up to him and said thank you. He had given me a goal in life by almost challenging me to bowl fast," Kapil Dev would later say.

Driven by self-belief, at times one needs a catalyst to get, set and go. Kapil Dev retired in 1994 as Test cricket's highest wicket-taker. In 2002, Wisden named him the Indian Cricketer of the Century.

Published 06 Jan 2021, 18:10 IST
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