| Kapil Dev is seen doing a namaste at a function in Calcutta on Saturday. But it actually should be salaam Kapil. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Nowadays, Kapil Dev prefers to talk about golf, not cricket. Exceptions, though, are there — for example, looking back on having ignited the fast bowling revolution across the country.
“Sure, I feel proud… It’s very satisfying that I inspired many to bowl quick…A dozen years after quitting, I regard it as a top achievement,” Kapil told The Telegraph on Saturday.
Speaking after a moving school awards function, where he made a difference to the lives of those he came in contact with, Kapil added: “I didn’t have a fast bowler as a role model — my idol, you may recall, was Gundappa Viswanath — yet, I was in a position to influence more than a generation…
“In the present times, a quick bowler gets trusted… Not in the same manner as an Anil Kumble or even Harbhajan Singh, but the thinktank definitely has more confidence… It’s a step forward… Unless it’s for tactical reasons, you won’t have a Tiger Pataudi or a Sunil Gavaskar opening the bowling in a Test match…”
Pataudi opened thrice with as many as three partners, while Gavaskar did so five times, with four. The last occasion (Lahore, 1978-79), incidentally, was with Kapil.
Given that spinners enjoyed God-like status in the Seventies, what attracted him to fast bowling'
“Two reasons… First, the thrill of holding a new ball… It meant a lot for us schoolboys… Then, I suppose my build was more suited to bowling quick… Later, I got fired up when coach Keki Tarapore (who is no more) told me and other trainees at a colts’ camp in Mumbai that India just couldn’t have a fast bowler…
“That remark, perhaps, made me more determined than ever before to make a mark as somebody who could bowl quick… Mujhe josh aa gaya…”
It was some josh, carrying Kapil to 434 wickets in Tests and 253 in ODIs. Consider his 5,248 runs in Tests and 3,783 in ODIs and you couldn’t have a better package.
Dozens of fast bowlers have played for India since Kapil’s debut in October 1978, but in recent years none has been more promising than Lakshmipathy Balaji.
That, at least, is Kapil’s opinion.
“I don’t know how much of a difference the long lay off is going to make, but Balaji would pitch it up and swing beautifully… Even Jawagal Srinath did that in the later stages of his career… Early on, he liked to pitch it short…”
Commenting on frequent injuries to quick bowlers, Kapil said: “That’s because, today, most are arm and not body-bowlers… I bowled with my body, if you get what I mean, so the stress was spread out… Looking at the current lot, Irfan Pathan needs to be careful and I’ve already cautioned him.”
Asked to pick his No.1 fast bowler, Kapil chose Pakistan’s dashing Wasim Akram.
“No disrespect to Richard Hadlee and Michael Holding, who belonged to an earlier generation, or to Glenn McGrath, who is a product of the Nineties, but Wasim will remain at the top of my list of matchwinners.
“Wasim’s USP wasn’t only accuracy and aggression, but the ability to lift his game the moment he sensed a killing was to be made… The match could have been meandering, but a three-four over burst would change everything… Wasim was special,” he pointed out.
Kapil ended our conversation with a few words for the emerging quick bowlers: “While seeking to enjoy what you’ve chosen to do, don’t attempt to cheat. Neither yourself nor anybody else…”
This advice couldn’t have come at a better time.
Footnote: When a well-wisher remarked he was greying rather quickly, Kapil quipped: “Theek hai, let’s say I’m getting mature!”