The last time I spoke to my coach was ten days ago. I used to call him every now and then to enquire about his health and when I got to know he had been hospitalised again,I spoke to him: How are you young man,I asked him. And he shot back,Young man? Kapil,all these years you have been calling me an old man! Why young now.
Desh Prem Azad was part of my world much before I became Kapil Dev,the World Cup hero. He wasnt just a cricket coach. DP sir,as we all called him,was a teacher,a father,elder brother and a guide. He had a big heart but his biggest strength was that he was a disciplinarian. He would never ever tolerate any nonsense or lack of effort.
I still remember how as a 16-year-old I was late for practice and he didnt let me in for days after that. I would just stand on the stairs,watch from a distance and vowed never to be late ever.
He lived his life beautifully. He was a big name in cricket circles in the 70s,80s and 90s and made best use of his knowledge. He had an undying passion for the game.
He knew what suited his wards and would give them individual attention. Me,Yograj Singh,Ashok Malhotra,Chander Vijay and later on Chetan Sharma all benefitted from his great wisdom.
As any other cricketer in those times,I was very weak in studies and DP sir would go and speak to my teachers: Munde nu pass karana hai kisi wi tarah (please help this boy to clear exams),he would plead with them. And if he got to know about any mischief we would do in school,he would thrash us. We feared him a lot.
At times he would drive down to our home on his scooter late in the evening to check on us,if we had slept or not. He would also supervise our diet. He knew how to gain the respect of all the players. When we won the World Cup in 1983 and I spoke to him,he told me how he had to treat his journalist friends with a bottle of Johny Walker Black Label as he had promised them if we won. He was the happiest when I met him on coming back to India after the World Cup win. I will miss him forever.