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Regretful: Kapil Dev retired not leaving Indian cricket with integrity he upheld


By Harsh Thakor 
Kapil Dev scaled heights as an entertainer and a player upholding the spirit of the game almost unparalleled in his era. In his time he was cricket’s ultimate mascot of sportsmanship On his day Kapil could dazzle in all departments to turn the tempo of game in the manner of a Tsunami breaking in. He radiated r energy, at a level rarely scaled in his era on a cricket field. Few ever blended aggression with artistry so comprehenisively.
Although fast medium, he could be as daunting with the ball as the very best, with his crafty outswinger, offcutter, slower ball and ball that kicked from a good length. Inspite of bowling on docile tracks on the subcontinent, Kapil had 434 scalps, with virtually no assistance. I can never forget how he obtained pace and movement on flat pancakes, trapping the great Vivian Richards in Front or getting Geoff Boycott or Zaheer Abbas caught behind. No paceman carried the workload of his team’s bowling attack on his shoulders in his eras much as Kapil .
Few were ever more explosive with the bat as Kapil. On his day he simply blazed away like an inferno, executing the most dazzling strokes all around the wicket. He would come down the pitch to loft balls for a six, over the fence.
Kapil made his debut in Pakistan in 1978, giving glimpses of his ability as dashing strokemaker, with his 59 at Karachi a cameo, scored of just 43 deliveries. In a subsequent home series versus West Indies he revealed his prowess as an allrounder .He scored 329 runs at an average of 65.8 including n unbeaten 126 at Delhi and 62 at Kanpur, and taking 17 scalps overall, averaging around 33.including a match-winning 7 wicket haul at Madras.In the 1979 English summer he illustrated his prowess as genuine seam bowler, taking 16 scalps.

Best Performances

Kapil's greatest allround performance was at Lords in 1982 when he amassed 89 and 41 and captured 5-125 and 3-43.Kapil resurrected the great Vinoo Mankad, previously, on the same ground. His swashbuckling 89 of 55 ball transcending domination in regions rarely scaled while his 3 wickets following that was simply the art of seam bowling personified. Perhaps never in final session in the day of a game has a cricketer scaled around performance at such a height. In that series Kapil’s breathtaking audacity of strokeplay in a crisis, surpassed that of any overseas allrounder in England.
His best performance in a series was against Pakistan at home in 1979-80, capturing 32 wickets at 17.68 and scoring 311 runs at 30.88.At Madras he score 84 in cavalier style and ripped the flesh of the Pakistan batsmen capturing 7-56 and 4-84.It enabled India to win it’s first series against Pakistan since 28 years., against a Pakistan team considered invincible. Notable that he rescued India from dire straits in the 3rd test which India won by 131 runs, scoring blazing 69.
Kapil's other outstanding efforts included capturing 17 wickets and scoring 329 runs at 65.8 at home versus West Indies in 1978-79,, capturing 28 scalps at around average of 22 in home series v Australia in 1979,29 wickets against West Indies at 18.53 in 1983-84 at home , including a spell of 9-83 at Ahmedabad, 77 at Lords in 1990 including 4 consecutive sixes, swashbuckling 69 at Karachi in 1982-83, 8-85 v Pakistan at Lahore in 1982-83, 163 v Australia at Madras in 1986, 100n.o at Trinidad in 1983,98 at Antigua in 1983,5-28 at Melbourne in 1981,4-56 at Lords in the 2nd innings in 1986 which won India it’s first ever test at the Mecca of cricket,129 v South Africa in 1992,97 at the Oval in 1982,8-120 at Brisbane in 1985-86 ,taking 25 scalps in Australia in 1991-92 and his greatest ever of 175 n.o v Zimbabwe at Tunbridge wells in 1983 World cup.
His marathon spell at Ahmedabad in 1983-84 and 5-28 at Melbourne in 1981 skittling the Aussie batsmen to sensationally win a test match, was simply mastery of seam bowling on bad wicket personified. On docile surfaces his 8-85 which ripped the heart of the Pakistan batting in the 5th test at Lahore in 1982-83, was a master piece of blending pace with control. His knocks of 77 at Lords in 1990, 89 at Lords, 97 at Oval in 1982, 163 at Madras in 1986 against Australia and 129 at Bloomfontein in 1992, were supreme exhibitions of batting aggression in ressurecting a team from dire straits. Few overseas fast medium bowlers were as effective or penetrative as Kapil in 5 tests in 1991-92 in Australia. Kapil's 175v Zimbabawe was arguably the best ODI innings ever which resurrected team from the grave to reach pinnacle of glory in the 1983 Prudential World cup, at a scale no ODI knock ever.
As a skipper in the 1983 Prudential l World Cup he knitted together and motivated a bunch of talented individual to pull of one of the last century’s greatest upsets in any form of sport.

Evaluation

Kapil retired aggregating 5248 runs at an average of 31.05 and captured 434 wickest at 29.64. No one has ever taken 400 wickets and scored 4000 runs, in the history of the game.
In ODI’s he scored 3783 runs at an average of 23.79 at and captured 253 wickets at 27.45. Statistically Kapil Dev the best ODI allrounder ever. However Statistics hardly revealed Kapil’s true greatness.
In pure talent to me Kapil was 2nd to only Sir Garfield Sobers, amongst all-rounders. For a period between1983-1986 possibly Kapil was the best allrounder in the world. Carrying such a workload of the team’s bowling prevented him from giving adequate concentration to his batting.
Christopher Martin Jenkings, David Gower and John Woodcock rank Kapil around 48th place amongst all-time great cricketers, which does not do him sufficient justice However Geoff Armstrong places him at 28th position, above Keith Miller and Jacques Kallis.Still all place him below Botham,Imran and Hadlee. 8 cricketers chose Kapil in the all-time test XI like Dean Jones, Syed Kirmani, Rahul Dravid, Dilip Vengsakar, Mohammad Azharuddin and Vijay Hazare.
However Kapil did not receive half the support Imran or Botham did as bowler and also played for a relatively weaker side.Botham did not equal Kapil's longevity with the ball, while Imran although a better bowler, could not turn the complexion of game with the bat to such a degree as Kapil. It is phenomenal achievement that on Indian flat pancakes he had haul of 219 wickets at an average of 26.49.Had Kapil played for teams like England or Australia he may well have had over 500 scalps and averaged under 25. I never saw a fast medium bowler as effective as a workhorse as Kapil,who bowled many a marathon spell.
Remarkable that in test matches won Kapil captured 197 scalps at an average of 18.30. Almost half his scalps were achieved in winning causes.
Notable that Kapil has scored 3 centuries v West Indies and has the best record of any allrounder against the invincible West Indies team of the 1980's. Botham never scored a century against West Indies nor had single five wickets haul on Carribean tracks. In 1981-1982 In successive series home and away, Kapil overshadowed Ian Botham In 1983 Kapil’s allround series performance in West Indies has been unequalled out there by any allrounder. He scored 1079 runs at 30.82 and took 89 wickets at 24.89 against possibly the best team ever.Kapil Dev is arguably the best ever ODI allrounder.
We must note that Kapil changed the complexion of Indian cricket like no cricketer ever, leading us to win the world cup in 1983 and1st test win at Lords in 1986.He played a major role in India’s other triumphs in squaring the series at Melbourne v Australia in 198081, winning the World championship of test cricket tourney in Australia in 1985 and the 1979-80 home series v Pakistan.
Personally I would place Kapil amongst the 25 best cricketers of all time and as an allrounder I rate him just a whisker below Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Keith Miller, and just inches above Kallis and Richard Hadlee.I could hardly separate Kapil from Vinoo Mankad,who were equally talented and impactful.
Most experts in my opinion have grossly underrated Kapil Dev.Khalid Ansari regards Kapil as the best allrounder of his era, and Ravi Shastri rates him the most talented. At his best he could turn a complexion of game almost top the same degree of Sobers and Botham,Miller or Imran at their best.
In my opinion Kapil Dev made a greater impact in shaping India’s important wins than any cricketer, surpassing the likes of Gavaskar, Tendulkar or Kohli, in that respect.

Weaknesses

His weaknesses lay in often throwing away his wicket and at times lacking astute tactical skill as a skipper. Unlike Botham he was not at his best with both bat and ball, consistently Imran was more professional with sounder temperament, and better defensive technique. His freaky stroke in the semi-final against England arguably cost India a berth in the 1987 Reliance cup final .Kapil could not bind India into a cohesive test or ODI team.
Another negative feature of his time was his tussles with Sunil Gavaskar for captaincy which was routine from 1983-1986. Regretful that he retired not leaving Indian cricket with the integrity he revealed in his career and became entangled in match-fixing controversies. He shed tears before the public.
---
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist and great fan of cricket

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