When it comes to being regarded as the greatest all-rounder the world of cricket has ever seen, Kapil Dev is always in the mix of options. If not the greatest, he is certainly one of them — alongside Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham, Clive Rice, and Malcolm Marshall in 1980s. The zenith of his career was when he led India to their first-ever World Cup victory in 1983 at the Lord’s by defeating two-time champions West Indies.
Recently, the 61-year-old was chosen as the Indian cricketer of the 20th century by Wisden, and in conversation with them, he shared the eight standout moments from his career, where he scored 5248 Test runs, 3783 ODI runs and picked 434 Test wickets and 253 ODI wickets.
No balls during a Ranji Trophy match, 1975
When Haryana met Punjab in a Ranji Trophy match in Rohtak in 1975, Kapil Dev had bowled many no-balls trying to bowl quick in that encounter because it was his first time playing on a pitch. All his childhood, he had just trained bowling on matting wickets in Chandigarh.
First Test century against West Indies, 1979
Kapil Dev hit his first Test century in Delhi against West Indies in the fifth match of the series which was incidentally way before his first five-wicket haul in the format. “People started saying, ‘He’s an all-rounder, he can bat’, and that helps you stay in the team. It also helps you bowl with a more aggressive mindset. You think, ‘I can contribute with the bat, so I can bowl with some extra pace and try a thing or two’,” recalled Dev.
The youngest to 1,000 Test runs and 100 Test wickets, 1980
Kapil Dev was the youngest player ever to reach the double of 1,000 Tests and 100 wickets, which he achieved in the sixth Test against Pakistan in Kolkata in 1980. “Reaching 100 Test wickets was very important though because I was the first seam bowler to take that many wickets from India. That was special,” he recounted.
5/28 against Australia in Melbourne, 1981
Kapil Dev almost guided India to their maiden Test series Down Under in the tour of 1981, in which he turned up with the good. Despite having a thigh injury in the Melbourne Test, Dev picked up 5/28 on the final morning. “Sunny [Gavaskar] suggested I take a break but I said, ‘No, I’m just getting my rhythm. Don’t stop me. Let me bowl.’ I was used to bowling long spells and at that point, my focus shifted to wickets, not my thigh. That’s when the game changed,” he said.
Beating West Indies for the first time in ODIs, 1983
West Indies was undoubtedly the best team in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and India rarely got any wins over the Clive Lloyd-led team. But it was Kapil Dev’s heroics that led India to register a 27-run win, the first against the Caribbeans, after the captain hit 77 with the bat and picked two wickets with the ball in the second ODI in Guyana.
Benson and Hedges World Series finals win over Pakistan, 1985
“In a way, this was the most special moment for us as a team, even more, special than the World Cup win of 1983. A lot of people said our win in 1983 was a fluke, whereas in this tournament people believed that we were genuinely good enough to pick up the trophy,” Kapil said.
Tied Test against Australia in Chennai, 1986
The tied Test between India and Australia in Chennai in 1986 got forged in the folklore of Indian Test matches as Kapil Dev scored an unbeaten 119 in the first innings. India made 397 in reply to Australia’s 574/7d, which had Dean Jones making 210 and David Boon and Allan Border making centuries. “I was very aggressive, hitting over cover, over mid-on, over mid-off, wherever I had the opportunity. I was more bothered with getting runs than defending my wicket,” said Dev.
The four sixes against England at Lord’s, 1990
Although India lost the first Test against England in 1990 by a massive 247 runs owing to Graham Gooch’s 333 and 123, Kapil Dev’s (77*) four consecutive sixes off Eddie Hemmings is forever etched in cricket history. He is the only batsman to achieve this feat in Tests. He says, “I did plan to attack Eddie Hemmings but I didn’t plan for four sixes.”
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