"Charisma meets outcome". That is how I would describe Kapil Dev. A true “son of the soil”, Kapil is one of the greatest cricketers to have represented India. He was accorded the “Indian Cricketer of the Millennium” award for his achievements and milestones. His competitors were no less than Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar for this award.
Kapil was always a major force for Team India from the time he debuted in 1978 against Pakistan in Faisalabad. Before him, most of the leading front-line bowlers were slow-medium and spinners like Abid Ali, Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrashekar. Kapil brought with him pace, something the world had not expected from an Indian.
When he started, his bowling action was slightly skewed. Within no time, he corrected it and delivered the ball closer to his chest which gave him the required swing and direction. It is worth mentioning that he took 400+ wickets for India, bowling mostly on Indian pitches (which are not pace friendly) and with no aid from other bowling partners. His perseverance and ability to ball 20+ overs at a stretch was a testament to his athletic ability and fitness.
I first noticed him in 1984 when I was 10 years of age. Basically a batsman, I had started bowling too by then and hence he struck me as a ‘force majeure’ for Team India. I remember quite vividly when Kapil bowled that magnificent spell of 9/83 against West Indies in Chennai. The West Indies batsmen did not have a clue as to what was happening to them. I also came to know about his exploits in the ’83 World Cup and how he brought glory to Indian Cricket with his bowling, batting and superior captaincy.
Kapil's batting needs no introduction. He delivered a match-winning 175* against Zimbabwe in the ’83 World Cup when India had been reduced to 17/5 at one point of time in the match. This match did not get recorded due to a BBC strike and hence we cannot appreciate that knock with as much veracity as we should have.
Another innings of his which stands out is when he struck Eddie Hemmings for 4 sixes consecutively to help his side avoid a follow-on against England. Only Kapil could have done this. Gavaskar once mentioned that if he had paid more attention to his batting, then he could have easily scored 10000 runs in Test cricket. His square cuts and flick were just magnificent on the eye. Where he lacked technique-wise, he made up with brute force.
I have seen some great fielders, including Jonty Rhodes, Azharuddin and Augustine Logi, but Kapil was truly outstanding. He could field anywhere on the cricket field (from long-on to mid-off). Very rarely did I see him drop a catch. I still remember him running some 20 yards from mid-on to deep mid-wicket for a catch which sent Viv Richards to the pavilion, helping India seal victory in the finals of the ’83 World Cup against West Indies.
Kapil entered international cricket when there were three greats; Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee. There was always fierce competition among them and an urge to outperform each other. To me though he is the best all-rounder of all time.
Kapil remains an inspiration for all. Although embroiled in match-fixing allegations by teammate Manoj Prabhakar, he emerged unscathed. Gavaskar candidly mentions that Indian cricket can be divided into 2 eras – one before Kapil and one after him. Coming from the Little Master, it sums up his splendid career.