Thursday, April 15, 2010

The End of an Era?

No, forgive me, this has nothing to do with the current shenanigans in the cricketing / political world, although currently we might be on the verge of ending an era as well, of innocence, of cricket as a sport, a fine art.

As I indicated way back when, this blog is about cricketing ruminations and reminiscences. What follows is an article I wrote when Kapil Dev retired, 16 years ago! It appeared in the Fall 1994 issue of "Baat Cheet", a quarterly magazine of the Indo-Am Association, a student association at the University of Minnesota, where I was studying then. Reproducing it here for nostalgia sake...

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An Indian cricket team without Kapil Dev?! That's hard for many of us to envisage, isn't it? Well, it's happened -- Kapil Dev recently announced his retirement from international cricket, somewhat prematurely according to some, too late according to others! But what's undeniable is the enormous service he has done to the game of cricket in India. Single-handedly, he shattered the conception that India could not produce pace bowlers worthy of a Test cap. Perhaps most importantly, his influence on the country's youth as a sporting idol resulted in the development of good fast bowling prospects in India. Till Kapil's emergence, the selectors had trouble finding two pace bowlers to open the bowling -- today, there's terrific competition for the Test place vacated by him.

Kapil made his Test debut in 1978 in Pakistan as a 19 year old. The raw young Haryanvi from Chandigarh immediately showed his promise, taking seven wickets in the three Tests, and troubling the batsmen with his pace and bounce. From then on, it was a meteoric ascent t othe top, breaking the record for number of wickets in a year, in his very first full year on the world stage. He leaves now as the top wicket-taker in the history of Test cricket -- he took 434 wickets in 131 Tests at an average of 29.64. Besides, he scored 5248 Test runs, with 8 centuries, a record worthy of a specialist batsman. Until recently, he was also the highest wicket-taker in one-day internationals (Wasim Akram recently passed him). He took 253 wickets and scored more than 3700 runs in one-dayers. Well and truly, an all-round performer. As a bowler, he relied on controlled swing and nagging accuracy -- plus considerable pace in the first half of his career. As a batsman, he was an explosive stroke-maker, capable of annihilating the best bowling attacks.

However, more than the statistics, Indian cricket fans will remember Kapil for his amazing feats on the cricket field. He leaves behind so many thrilling memories -- who can forget that beaming face holding aloft the Prudential World Cup in 1983? The spectacular catch to dismiss Viv Richards in the final? Or the astounding innings of 175* in the same tournament, coming in with the score at 9 for 4? Remember the 1981 Melbourne Test, when he took 5 wickets to rout Australia for 83? Or the Bombay Test against England in 1981, when Madan Lal and Kapil got England all-out for 102 to win the Test for India? Or that Ahmedabad Test against the Windies, when he recorded his career-best figures of 9-83? Then there was the 1985 WCC series semi-final, in which he thrashed Hadlee's bowling in the company of Vengsarkar, and took India into the final (where his bowling set up in Indian win). Another piece of Kapil magic was during the 1990 Lord's Test -- India needed 24 to save the follow-on; the last pair of Kapil and Hirwani was at the crease. Kapil proceeded to dispatch spinner Eddie Hemmings over the fence for four consecutive sixes! As recently as 1991, Kapil defied the critics and took 25 wickets in 5 Tests in Australia, troubling the Aussie batsmen constantly.

That however, was to be his last impressive series as a bowler. Since then, Kapil's pace slackened, his control wavered, and his batting was rarely reliable. Despite the occasional brilliant performance, critics started sharpening their knives, questioning his place in the team in the face of competition from younger fast bowlers like Srinath and Ankola. In recent Tests, India's spinners came to the forefront as wicket-takers, and reduced Kapil's role as a bowler even further. Kapil reached the historic milestone of 431 wickets (equalling Hadlee's record) against Sri Lanka last year, and broke it in the next Test. It was widely expected that Kapil would then retire, having reached the pinnacle. However, he decided to play on, setting himself a target of 500 Test wickets. That however, was not to be. An injury forced him to miss the three-nation Wills tournament recently, and Kapil decided to hang up those famous boots. Kapil had never missed a single Test match due to injury in 16 years, an astounding achievement for a pace bowler.

Kapil now takes up a new job as a television commentator for DoorDarshan. He is already a successful businessman, with a hotel in Chandigarh among his many investments. He intends to take some time off cricket to be with his family, and later, perhaps we'll see him back on the cricket scene as an administrator or coach. Whatever he does, the best wishes of millions of fans will be with him! Sachmuch, Kapil Dev da jawab nahin!

5 comments:

Ian said...

Hi Neeran, this reply is nothing to do with your post :)

I recalled finding you here some time ago and commiserated with you briefly about the loss of a certain play-by-email cricket game that was once so dear to us. Well, I just visited the old UC homepage (I do from time to time, just in case there's an update). Nothing for months (years?). Until today. Go to the old homepage; there's an interesting comment and a link to a new forum. I'm only "membership pending" at present but I see names you'd recognise already present. They're looking for old team managers. Sorry if someone's already found you and this is old news but I thought it was worthy of a mention (if we don't spread the word and all that...).

Regards,

Ian
(formerly DAF, CAV, WBT, ??? to follow?)

Neeran Karnik said...

Hi Ian, thanks for the info! I did get an email from Mark Astley about this new forum, and signed up. Ashamed to admit that I haven't visited it in many weeks though... Mark clarified that there's no immediate prospect of restarting UC, so I kind of got depressed and went away :-(

Ian said...

Good to hear you were "found" though :)

I've changed email address several times so they didn't find me. We'll see what happens; at present I'll go with the good intentions and the thoughts that counted.

Tarun Khanna said...

Hey Neeran,
Just happened to land up on this post through FB....Great to see a blog dedicated to cricket from you....This post is indeed wonderful for a Kapil fan....Thanks :)
Tarun

Neeran Karnik said...

@Tarun: Thanks! I don't post here often, but I hope you find some of the earlier posts also interesting.