On this day, 16th October 1978 in Faisalabad in Pakistan, a 19-year-old tearaway fast bowler from Haryana made his Test debut for India, named Kapil Dev Nikhanj. 40 years since Kapil Dev, who is now part of the Asia Pacific Seniors event, recalled his debut in an interview with sportstarlive.com.
“Forty years. I didn’t realize that. Thanks for reminding me. How could I forget the day. It was a momentous occasion for me to be playing for India,” recalled Kapil.
Kapil further said, “What I remember the most was that I did not sleep at all the night before of the game. I went to the manager (Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad) and shared my problem with him. I was so nervous at the thought of playing for India in the company of me heroes. I had heard about them and was now going to be part of the match they were to figure in.”
Kapil Dev made an immediate impact as Pakistani opener and one of the best batsmen of his time, Majid Khan treated him with respect and so did his partner Sadiq Mohammed.
Kapil says, “The Pakistanis are known for their aggression. They had Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Ahmed in their ranks. I was excited playing against them. Also, I was told not to play the hook shot but I remember going in as night-watchman and hooking the first bouncer I faced. I never gave up that shot.”
Kapil said, “I was more nervous at the thought of playing with my heroes than taking on Pakistan. Those days there was no cap-presenting ceremony to the debutant. One had to make a speech. All I could mumble was 'chuck de phatte' (come on, let’s do it). Actually I was totally clueless about the whole thing. I just blurted what came to me instantly.”
“I was raw. You can say I was wayward the way I bowled. But then it was only my first series and it took me time to come to terms with nervousness. It was a wonderful experience though. Honestly, I never thought of how long I would play for India. I just wanted to bowl endlessly. I would bowl in the nets. I would bowl in the match obviously. I just wanted to bowl,” Kapil reminisces.
Kapil Dev played from 1978-1994 for India in 131 Tests and 225 ODIs with 5248 and 3783 runs respectively. He scored 8 Test and one ODI century in his career with a Test highest of 163 and ODI highest of 175.
Kapil also picked 434 Test wickets and 253 ODI wickets with an ODI hat-trick. He broke Sir Richard Hadlee’s record of 431 wickets in 1994 and retired soon after. He is most known for leading India to the 1983 World Cup win in England and for his knock of 175, which was the first ODI hundred by an Indian and the highest ODI score at the time, against Zimbabwe in a must-win match during the 1983 World Cup, rescuing India from 17/5.
Kapil was also named the Indian Cricketer of the Century by Wisden in 2002, beating the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar.
Ending the interview, Kapil said, “It’s been a long journey.” What else did he remember of his Test debut? “The Pakistanis were letting out abuses in Punjabi. I gave it back to them. I am not abusive by nature but I loved it. They stopped after some time.”