This happened at the National Stadium in New Delhi.
A Mercedes car zoomed in and out stepped a tall gentleman. He had come
for a bowling workout, but no new balls were available. The gentleman zoomed
off and returned a little later, with two dozen new balls. Some young aspirants
who were waiting to train with him would never forget that gesture. Kapil
had given an apt illustration of his down to earth and helpful nature.
That then is Kapil Dev Nikhanj. A figure batsmen
dread and a person who has a cult following, not just in India. There are
many instances which show how Kapil went out of the way to help others.
Here is an anecdote which shows Kapil's commitment
to a cause. This was during his early days in Test cricket. He had promised
Chandu Borde that he would play in his benefit match at Pune. Now Kapil
had a problem. He had to write his exams in Chandigarh, but then he had
made a commitment. So Kapil left Chandigarh in the morning, reached Delhi
in the afternoon, and took the evening flight to Bombay. From Bombay he
hired a taxi to reach Pune. The driver of the taxi gave up after sometime,
feeling sleepy. What did Kapil do ? He sat at the wheel and drove in the
night to reach pune in time for the match. He kept the taxi waiting, and
drove back to Bombay the same afternoon, and took the evening flight to
Delhi, and drove overnight to Chandigarh, in time to write his exams.
This is just a small example of Kapil keeping a promise.
There are many instances to highlight the sacrifices he had to make on
the way to his goal. Kapil admits he began with the ambition to just play
for the country. "I wanted to bowl fast because every one talked of India
not having a quick bowler. As time went on, I learnt and improved. With
every season my ambitions grew and I thank God for helping me achieve my
One vividly remembers an incident at Ferozeshah Kotla
in 1983. Kapil had been appointed as captain for the World Cup and as he
left the ground, someone from the crowd shouted ' Apne english Sudhaar
le ' ( Improve your English ). Kapil looked hurt. His job was to take wickets
and score runs for the country. He returned with the World Cup, and over
a period of time improved his English too. Today, when he speaks, there
is little hint that this humble criketer studied in the Hindi medium DAV
school in Chandigarh.
Here are a few more incidents which reflect Kapil's
resolve to make it big.
When Haryana was given affiliation and was to play
its first under-19 match at the Law College ground in Chandigarh, Kanwaljit
Singh from Sainik School was made the captain. Kapil could not find a place
in the team because the captain was thought to be more talented. Kapil
was hurt but that was just the kind of shock he needed to train more furiously."
I remember Kapil bowled with fire at the nets," his coach D.P.Azad recalls.
On another occasion, the Stadium juniors team was
allout for 69 in the final against Haryana State Electricity Board in 1974-75.
Azad recalls " I was annoyed ". But Kapil, very cool, assured his coach
"We won't let them make 69." HSEB was shot out for 40-odd runs with Kapil
taking 7 wickets."He was such a fighter,"says Azad.
Kapil was a born sportsman. He was good at 200m and
400m in school athletics. He still plays table tennis and badminton with
aplomb. He is a good swimmer, plays squash regularly at the National Sports
Club of India, and is good at cards too.
His family members, friends, cricketing colleagues,
do not remember any occasion when Kapil lost his cool. But there was one
instance when he exploded, much to the shock of his close friend.
Kapil, already a test cricketer then, was returning
home after a training session at sector 16 stadium in Chandigarh. His friend
was driving the motorcycle when a jeep almost knocked them off. They chased
the vehicle and even before his friend could react, Kapil jumped off the
motorcycle and dragged the driver out. The errant driver was rewarded with
two hard blows.His friend was shocked. " Kapil won't hurt a fly", he recalled.
Kapil provided the answer - " This fellow would have finished my cricket."
That, then was the provocation.
Today, in a similar situation, Kapil would probably
admonish the errant jeep driver gently. After all, now he stands at the
peak of the bowlers' fratenity with the highest number of wickets in test
Kapil's cricketing life truly is a saga of courage
and sacrifice, worth emulating for every young lad in the country.