India has 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 Indian players to do the Test double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, Kapil is the only one who averaged more with the bat than the 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 no-hopers 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 defense of the World Cup failed at the semi-final stage in 1987.

Kapil Dev Celebrates His 63rd Birthday; Receives Wishes From Fans And  Cricket Fraternity

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 mold.

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 and in a position to swing the ball. He needed to watch 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 hundred 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 was 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 specialty 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?

Kapil Dev: India's Greatest All-Rounder – Almanack Tribute | Wisden

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.

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