Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..8. Kapil Dev : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

Kapil Dev
India’s cricketer of the century

Born 06.01.1959

BATTING (World Cups 1979-1992)
Not Out.....6   
Highest Score.....175*      

BOWLING (World Cups 1979-1992)
Runs Per Over.....3.76

That Kapil Dev was a rare talent cannot be disputed. What surprised most people was that, coming from the land of spin, he emerged as a world-class paceman. Even more creditable was that he went on to become one of the greatest allrounders in the annals of the game, despite the fact that he had not many role models to emulate from his own country. Kapil Dev - superb athlete, incisive seamer, scintillating strokeplayer and brilliant fielder - is a name to be found in the pantheon of the finest cricketers.

Of all his achievements, two stand out. One, of course, was that he went on to become the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket. The other was that he led India to a highly unlikely World Cup title, in the process causing one of the greatest upsets ever by humbling the mighty West Indies. In fact while discussing Kapil Dev’s part, doubtlessly the most romantic episode is the third World Cup in 1983. It was a triumph against heavy odds, one of self-belief in the face of growing cynicism and near-conviction among the game’s followers that India would never be a force in One-day cricket, at least not so soon.

The story in the previous World Cup was not so inspiring. Having made his Test debut against Pakistan a few months earlier, Kapil Dev arrived in England for the second Prudential Cup in 1979, keen to enhance his reputation as a promising allrounder. Those were days when the Indians had little clue as to how the One-day game was meant to be played. Young Kapil, just 20-years-old then, was no exception. He made no impact barring a few minor partnerships down the order, and the Venkataraghavan-led team returned unsung, if not disgraced.

From the ashes of such a disaster, India and Kapil Dev rose like a phoenix in 1983. Kapil was, by then, captain. Kim Hughes, the Australian skipper, seemed to have had some premonition – or maybe he was a much greater judge of the game than most others – for he stated right at the start that the Indians were the dark horses in the tournament. Even the most diehard fan could not have realistically hoped that India would seize the 1983 title. That was not without reason, for in nine years India had won merely 12 out of their 40 One-day Internationals. Four of these victories were over East Africa and Sri Lanka, the minnows of those times.

The third edition of the World Cup opened on an ominous note. India trounced reigning champions, the West Indies, by 34 runs. Even though Kapil Dev’s personal contribution in that match was insignificant, the triumph must have boosted his, and the team’s, confidence to a new high. India strode on, brushing aside Zimbabwe. The match against Australia was the first in which Kapil Dev made his mark in the competition. It may have taken some time in coming, this being his sixth match, but it was a sign of things to follow. Though Australia won handsomely by 162 runs, Kapil was brilliant. Even as the opponents rattled up 320 for nine in their 60 overs, Kapil
bowled superbly in every spell to capture five wickets for 43 runs in his quota of 12 overs. He took two catches, one of them off his own bowling. Then as India slumped to 66 for six, he hit up a stroke-filled 40 in typical fashion off just 27 balls with 2 fours and a six, and shared a quickfire 58-run stand with Madan Lal in only 9 overs. Kapil Dev, the world-class allrounder, had made his presence felt.

In the return match the mighty West Indies, their pride hurt by the reverse in the opening encounter, were seeking revenge and duly got it. Kapil scored a fighting 36. He was associated in a gritty half-century stand with Mohinder Amarnath not long after Dilip Vengsarkar was hit a sickening blow on the face by Malcolm Marshall bowling at a fearsome pace.

India then faced Zimbabwe on 18 June at the little-known Nevill Ground in Tunbridge Wells for what they would have imagined would be an easy win. What followed was stuff that legends are made of, and re-emphasised the awesome talent of Kapil Dev. The Zimbabwean seamers made full use of the early life and the resultant sharp movement from the wicket. In no time the top half of the Indian batting was blown away and left tottering at 17 for five. Surely, this was going to be the biggest upset in the World Cup. India were on the verge of being knocked out of the tournament, for a recovery from this precarious position appeared impossible. There was only Kapil Dev left with the other allrounders for company. But there lies the folly of using the same yardstick for greats like Kapil Dev as for ordinary mortals. And Kapil Dev showed that he was no mere mortal on the cricket field.

There was only one way out, and that was to attack. That suited Kapil’s style and he launched one of the most ferocious assaults imaginable. Fours and sixes rained one after another. It was not mindless slogging. It was, on the contrary, controlled hitting with beautifully timed drives and pulls bisecting the field time and again. As the conditions eased, and the bowling lost a bit of its sting, Kapil Dev seized the initiative totally. He put on 60 for the sixth wicket with Roger Binny (22), 62 for the eighth wicket with Madan Lal (17), and finally a blazing unfinished 126 for the ninth wicket with wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani (24 not out), a record not likely to be broken in a hurry. Kapil Dev remained unbeaten on 175 off just 138 balls as the overs ran out. He wiped out from the record books Glenn Turner’s 171 not out scored against East Africa at Edgbaston in 1975. Kapil’s 6 sixes and 16 fours in his stunning near-run-per-minute knock enabled India to finish on 266 for eight in their 60 overs. The Zimbabweans fought on but Kapil appropriately applied the finishing touches by capturing the last wicket, and clinching victory by 31 runs. It was an amazing man-of-the-match performance by one of the true greats of the game. Kapil’s knock will remain forever etched in the minds of the game’s followers.

Having come back from the dead, the astounding deeds of Kapil’s Devils, as they had now been christened, continued unabated. The final round-robin match against Australia was crucial as only one of the two teams could advance to the semi-finals. Nearly all the “Devils” contributed with the bat, and then the medium-pacers saw to it that Australia would not get even within a hundred of India’s score.

India were in the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time but hosts England were hardly ever able to put pressure. India were now riding the crest of a wave. Kapil Dev mopped up the tail to finish with three for 35 in 11 overs, and then his batsmen gave the English no chance, cantering to an easy win.

Came the big day at Lord’s. The opponents were the near-invincible West Indies. If ever there were underdogs, it was the Indians on 25 June 1983. True to expectations, they packed up for a mere 183 runs in 54.4 overs. It was going to be a mere formality for the Caribbean batting machine, or so it appeared. In strode Vivian Richards at one down, chewing gum and surveying the field in his seemingly arrogant manner. He began spanking the ball to the boundary, and the world prepared to laud the all-conquering West Indies for a hat-trick of titles.

Just then Richards got carried away by his own brilliance. He pulled Madan Lal off the front foot high over mid-wicket. The ball soared above Kapil Dev, all the time sailing away from him. Kapil swivelled around and sprinted towards the boundary, keeping his eyes glued to the ball. It took almost a lifetime for the little dot to come down, and for Kapil to reach it. Reach he did, and only just. He clutched it as it was about to go down in front of him. The master blaster had been dismissed, and the Indians had managed to get their foot in the door. That was just the spur they needed. It, in fact, typified the spirit of the team under Kapil Dev. He was himself a great trier, a fighter to the core. That rubbed off on the team. He was not known as a great tactician; he simply led from the front and the others just tried to emulate him. It may not be wrong to say that Kapil Dev, like Gavaskar before him and Tendulkar after, was responsible for instilling self-belief in the Indian team; for showing to the others that it was possible to take on the best and defeat them.

And so it was on this day. It was apparent that the Indian players were a rejuvenated lot. Led by the supercharged skipper they went for the kill. Kapil held a sharp catch in the covers to send back his opposite number, Clive Lloyd. There was a veritable procession, and at 76 for six the champions had all but been dethroned. Only the knockout punch remained. That came via the gentle medium-pace of Mohinder Amarnath. In between, Kapil trapped Andy Roberts leg-before, and his team celebrated a famous victory.

There was disbelief in many quarters, but not in the minds of those who realised what a champion performer Kapil Dev was. There was nothing impossible for him, and faced with a difficult situation he had the ability to turn a match by his stupendous hitting, penetrative bowling, razor sharp fielding, or inspirational leadership. It was all this that enabled Kapil Dev to win the World Cup for India. Indeed the 1983 World Cup was a golden chapter in Kapil Dev’s glittering career. Consider this – a World Cup record score of 175 not out, and 303 runs at 60.60 per innings; a five-wicket haul, and 12 wickets at 20.41 each and economy-rate of 2.91 runs per over; a record seven catches in a single World Cup; and the championship. Simply brilliant. He attributed the team’s triumph to top-class fielding and the strategy of not too quick, but straight bowling. This proved to be the best course under the conditions. Kapil Dev spoke about his personal philosophy: “Self-belief is the best way one can realise his dreams and goals.”

* * * * *


“Our 1983 team had self-belief”

What did your 1983 World Cup team have that the 1975 and 1979 Indian sides did not?
Self-belief. We had a good tour of the West Indies prior to the 1983 World Cup. We levelled the One-day series 1-1 before losing the decider. It was not a joke to beat the West Indies in those days. Once we beat them (in Berbice, Guyana), we realised that we could beat anyone. Besides we had a number of allrounders. If you consider that men like Kirti Azad and Madan Lal - who batted at no.7 and no.9 for us - have scored 16 Ranji Trophy centuries each, it becomes apparent that we had tremendous batting depth. Imagine a player like Syed Kirmani was batting at no.10! Even last-man Balwinder Singh Sandhu could bat. We had attacking batsmen (Krish Srikkanth, Sandeep Patil and Kapil himself) and also those like Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar and Yash Pal Sharma who could see us through the 60 overs. Our fielding was safe rather than brilliant, though men like Roger Binny and Yash Pal were outstanding. Gavaskar did a great job in the slips and Kirmani was a fine wicketkeeper.      

No one except Kim Hughes gave your team even an outside chance to win the Cup. Were you surprised at your team’s performance?
Definitely, I was surprised. But everything was clicking for us then. We had belief in ourselves. Victory over the West Indies in the first match of the World Cup gave a kick-start to our campaign. We can win, we thought after this. Our attitude was very good.

In retrospect, you did have a very good One-day side.
I agree we had a good team.

Would you say that it was your innings against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells that turned the tide? You went on to win four matches in a row to lift the Cup quite sensationally.
Rather than my innings, what was critical was that the thought of losing never crossed our minds. There was a terrific bond within that team.

Was the wicket seaming a lot on that day?
You know that matches started at 11 A.M. in England thanks to their long hours of daylight during summer. Even at that hour the ball was nipping around. Crucially, our batsmen kept edging instead of missing. As wickets tumbled, the pressure kept building up. Soon it was 9 for four wickets (when Kapil went in to bat, and then 17 for five).

Did the pitch ease out as your innings progressed?
Yes, it improved and we were able to build up a good total.

Personally too you had a brilliant World Cup in 1983, with bat and ball. Was that your finest hour, or was the Test wickets record more exhilarating?
The World Cup win brought recognition to Indian cricket. It brought about a massive change as far as One-day cricket was concerned in India. Earlier our One-day record was poor. This victory was not a fluke; we went on to win the World Championship of cricket in Australia in 1985. We became a force to reckon with. Even though Test cricket is the ultimate, the World Cup triumph was extremely important for us. People talk about my innings of 175 against Zimbabwe, but look at our team effort and the fine combination we had. Medium-pacers Binny, Madan Lal and Sandhu were the key. For variety we had left-arm spinner Ravi Shastri. Let’s not forget the bowling of Amarnath (slow-medium) and Kirti Azad (quickish off-breaks). In the semi-final at Manchester - where the ball invariably swings around - it was turning and keeping low that day. These two were first-class. They pegged England back and bowled 24 overs between themselves (conceding just 55 runs and picking up three wickets), leaving my main bowlers with plenty of overs in hand. After Amarnath and Kirti had bowled 6 overs each, they would look at me at the beginning of each over and wonder if I would keep them on. I just kept them on and on. Our fielding was also very sharp that day.

Are you aware that you are still the only player to score a century and bag a five-wicket haul in all the World Cups put together?
(Expresses surprise).

What were your thoughts on the morning of the final?
We felt we had nothing to lose.

Your total of 183 could not have inspired confidence.
They gave us a green top on which the ball was flying around. The great West Indies fast bowlers Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding made it very tough for us. 

Was the ball still moving around when you bowled?
It seamed the whole day. I bowled four maidens, which would not have been possible if the ball was not seaming around.

Gordon Greenidge shouldered arms and was bowled. Sandhu said he thought he had bowled an out-swinger but the ball came in.
It happens sometimes. Once you release the ball you can’t always be sure what it will do. At times I would attempt an out-swinger and the ball would come in after hitting the seam. Sandhu was bowling from the Nursery End from where the ball generally goes away from the right-hander due to the slope at Lord’s. But that delivery seamed in sharply.

At which stage did you think that you could win? Richards’ dismissal? Lloyd’s dismissal? Or later?
Vivian Richards was obviously an awesome player but even though we managed to dismiss him, Clive Lloyd was still there. And we knew what Lloyd had done in the 1975 final. But soon Lloyd (who had a strained groin and Desmond Haynes as runner) hit a catch to me at cover. Then wickets started tumbling.  

Surely at 76 for six, you had the match in the bag.
What was important was that their top six batsmen - Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lloyd, Larry Gomes and Faoud Bacchus - were out.

Do you think the West Indies batsmen were complacent?
No. When a batsman goes in, he tries his best. It’s pressure that gets batsmen in such situations. It was a World Cup final. The fielding side is always less nervous at times such as this. Ultimately, pressure got to the West Indies.

* * * * *

Kapil was captain again - after a spell by Gavaskar - when the Reliance-sponsored World Cup came to the Indian sub-continent in 1987. This time there were fond hopes that there would be a mighty India-Pakistan clash in the final at the Eden Gardens, Calcutta, in front of a near-100,000 crowd. This was not to be and it spelt the end of Kapil’s reign as captain. Somehow in this tournament the portents were not too good for India. Australia beat them in the opening match by a solitary run. Thereafter they rolled over New Zealand, with Kapil scoring a rapid-fire unbeaten 72 off just 58 balls with a six and 4 fours. His unbroken 82-run seventh-wicket stand off just 51 deliveries with wicketkeeper Kiran More took the game away from the Kiwis. Kapil Dev wrested the man-of-the-match award.

After a quiet spell, Kapil came into his own in the return encounter with Zimbabwe. He took two for 44 off his 10 overs. Then with the bat he brought up an easy seven-wicket victory in the company of Vengsarkar. They put on 62 for the fourth wicket. Kapil was unbeaten with 41 off just 25 balls with 3 sixes and 2 fours, and won another man-of-the-match prize. In the semi-final, Graham Gooch was simply irresistible. Kapil tried manfully, bowling a fine line and length to capture two for 38 in his 10 overs, and then scoring a fighting 30 off just 22 balls with 3 fours. But he could not do a 1983, as his side faded away.

By 1992 Kapil Dev was in the last stretch of his great career. He was still a fine player, churning out economical spells, and playing his free-scoring knocks. But it was obvious that the gods were not smiling on him, or the team, as they did nine summers earlier. He bowled well as his side squared up to England in the opening match, dismissing Ian Botham early, and then removing Chris Lewis. He finished with two for 38 off 10 overs. And had he batted a little longer, India might well have prevailed in that close encounter.

In an even tighter match, Kapil Dev jolted reigning champions and hosts Australia, dismissing both the openers with just 31 runs on the board. He knocked back Geoff Marsh’s stumps and had Mark Taylor caught behind by Kiran More. He later had skipper Allan Border too snapped up by Ajay Jadeja. Kapil Dev returned with three for 41 off 10 overs. Promoted up the order to boost the scoring-rate, he put on 42 for the fourth wicket with his captain, Mohammad Azharuddin. But Steve Waugh trapped Kapil Dev leg-before for a-run-a-ball 21 with 3 boundaries. India lost by 1 run.

In the needle match with Pakistan, Kapil added 60 for the sixth wicket with Sachin Tendulkar. He scored 35 off just 26 balls with 2 fours and a six, and then played his part with the ball too. Trapping surprise opener Inzamam-ul-Haq leg-before for 2, he also removed Moin Khan as the Pakistani challenge petered out. Kapil finished with two for 30 on a rare happy day for India in this tournament.

Kapil Dev played another little gem of 33 against New Zealand, off just 16 balls, rocketing 5 boundaries. He took 42 off the South African attack, putting on 71 for the fourth wicket with Azharuddin. For this he required a mere 29 deliveries and crashed 3 fours and a six. But by then the Indian campaign had already gone awry. Kapil Dev left the scene, his name etched brightly in the lists of leading batsmen and bowlers of the World Cup, with few to give him company in that rarefied atmosphere. His batting strike-rate of 115.14 per 100 balls is third-best in the World Cup after Lance Klusener (121.17) and John Davison (115.84) among batsmen who have faced at least 250 balls. And he was a Cup-winning captain to boot.

Impressive, though his statistics are, mere figures can never do justice to a player of Kapil Dev’s calibre. Peter Roebuck aptly summed up the man: “Great bowlers have the heart the size commonly found in buffaloes and Kapil is one outstanding example. It gives them courage to raise their game when they meet a celebrated opponent. And Kapil’s courage puts him in the giant class.” Some felt that a player of his
enormous batting ability should have scored far more runs. If the huge burden of carrying the Indian attack on his broad shoulders for more than a-decade-and-a-half had been taken away, he may well have been an even greater genius with the bat. But posterity will always remember Kapil Dev as one of the finest allrounders that have ever been. That he was adjudged Wisden’s Indian cricketer of the century is the ultimate tribute to a humble man with a mighty spirit.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

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