Kapil Dev is regarded as not only the best all-rounder India produced but one of the greatest to play the game. Making his debut in 1978 against Pakistan, Kapil continued his legendary career till 1994.
Nicknamed the 'Haryana Hurricane', Kapil Dev played 131 Tests, and 225 ODIs for India and picked a then record 434 and 253 wickets. He also scored 5248 Test and 3783 ODI runs with 9 centuries to boot. Apart from that, Kapil Dev was the captain of the Indian team which won the 1983 World Cup in England.
However, in the mid-1990s, Kapil Dev was in the last leg of his career and was chasing the then-world record haul of Richard Hadlee who had retired in 1991 with 431 Test wickets.
Kapil took his 400th Test wicket in the 1991-92 tour of Australia but was struggling to reach the milestone in the next two years. He finally got his record-breaking 432nd wicket in a Test match at home against Sri Lanka as he dismissed Hashan Tillakaratne in Ahmedabad.
While many expected Kapil Dev to call time on his career after reaching the milestone, former India opener, and chief selector at the time, Anshuman Gaekwad recalled how the great all-rounder set panic in the BCCI after he announced that he’ll continue to play for India.
He then shared the story of how he and then selector Gundappa Viswanath convinced Kapil Dev to retire from international cricket.
“You can’t drop such a big player. We allowed him to play the Test series against Sri Lanka, and he broke the world record (for being the highest wicket-taker) in the Ahmedabad Test. We thought he’ll announce his retirement after breaking the world record. However, that evening, in the press conference, he said that he’ll play for two more years.
The next day, a seemingly hassled Vishy (chief selector Gundappa Viswanath) told me: ‘See the headlines of the newspapers. Kapil is saying that he will play for 2 more years,’” reminisced Gaekwad recalled at the Ageas Federal Life Insurance felicitation function in Mumbai.
Gaekwad said: “That same evening, there was a national selection committee meeting. [Jagmohan] Dalmiya was the BCCI secretary. So, we sat and decided that it was time for Kapil to quit. I suggested to Dalmiya that as a selection committee chairman and senior, Vishy [Viswanath] should talk to him. However, Vishy insisted that I accompany him.
"At tea time, we approached Kapil in the dressing room. Vishy wasn’t a forthright guy, who would tell you that you were doing something wrong on your face. He would go round and round while talking to someone. So I took the initiative.”
Kapil Dev was supremely fit in 1994 but had lost the pace and swing that once made him a force to reckon with. His batting also lost some power with time as he had a long and successful career.
Gaekwad then shared his conversation with Kapil: “I told Kapil: ‘Kaps, we need to talk to you.’ I told him: ‘The selectors feel that you need to quit now, and you also know it. We will give you a farewell game, as per your choice, but now you’ve to call it a day.
Kapil reacted very nicely. He said: ‘Thank you very much. I really appreciate what you told me.' One has to do this kind of a thing at times, which I did.”
Kapil did play a couple of games thereafter on the tour of New Zealand and at home against the West Indies but retired from the game in 1994 itself.
(Times of India inputs)