Former India Test player Yajurvindra Singh on Saturday recalled how one innings in East Africa in 1978 from the then rookie player Kapil Dev changed the perception of some top Indian players of that time about his capabilities as a cricketer.
Singh, who delivered the inaugural “Raj Singh Memorial Spirit of Cricket Lecture” at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, mentioned the ‘Haryana Hurricane’s’ visit to East Africa as part of the Rajasthan cricket team as an additional member.
He explained how the then wet-behind-the-ears ace all rounder had convinced Raj Singh, who picked the team members, to take him on the tour as the additional member of the squad after getting the green signal from the hosts.
Yajurvindra then described how last man Kapil, who had sprayed the ball around when bowling, played an attacking knock to guide the team to a victory against the hosts and silenced the doubting Thomases in the squad.
“We had a full strength team with several Test players including “Tiger” (Pataudi). We were in deep trouble and were nine down chasing 270-odd when Kapil went to bat. “Tiger” commented to Raj Singh the manner in which he walked out to bat and expressed the doubt whether he can save the team.
“When Kapil went in (Syed) Kirmani was on three and when he finished the game to remain not out on 53 Kirmani was on 6. He told me (who was asked to be his mentor on the tour) before he went out to bat that he will play straight. He hit the first ball for a six outside the ground and into the car
park,” said Yajurvindra.
That innings made the cricketers on the tour sit up and become aware of Kapil Dev’s potential. After that day he and the others on that tour were not surprised when the Haryana star burst on the Test scene and batted the way he did, explained Yajurvindra.
The former Rajkot-born cricketer also took a pot-shot at the lack of sporting spirit exhibited by both India and Australia in the just-concluded acrimonious Test rubber.
“The spirit of the game is in danger of being given a burial and concrete action needs to be taken by the authorities,” said Yajurvindra who equalled the world record of Australia’s Greg Chappell by taking seven catches at short leg in his Test debut against England in Bangalore in ’76-77.
Recalling his feat Yajurvindra, who termed Raj Singh as his mentor, mentioned how the former BCCI and CCI president – instead of patting him – questioned him why did he drop the eighth catch that came his way.
“He was the best Indian all rounder as he was a first class cricketer (played 86 matches and took 206 wickets), a capable administrator, selector and manager,” said Yajurvindra.
He also hailed Raj Singh’s role in appointing the first physio for the Indian team in 1998 (Andrew Kokinos) as BCCI president and in making John Wright as the team’s first foreign coach, besides raising money for the victorious 1983 World Cup team by arranging a concert of “melody queen”, Lata Mangeshkar.