Kapil Dev- Wisden Indian Cricketer of the Century
Report by Ajay Singh
23 July, 2002
The 'Wisden Indian cricketer of the century' award was presented at a grand ceremony in London yesterday. Also given were other awards recognizing some of the great feats by Indian cricketers. The awards jury included among others, eminent former cricketers like Clive Lloyd, Richie Benaud and Imran Khan. The touring Indian team was among several luminaries, present and former cricketers and cricket lovers who had gathered to watch the presentation of the awards.
The first award of the evening was for the ' Best bowling performance by an Indian cricketer'. The nominees who made it to the final round were B.S Chandrashekhar, Anil Kumble and Vinoo Mankad. The enigmatic B.S. Chandrashekhar was selected for the award for his 6/38 at the Oval, ahead of Anil Kumble's 10-wicket haul in an innings against Pakistan. Kapil Dev who bowled his heart out on docile Indian wickets and came up with spells of 9/83 at Ahmedabad, and a match-winning spell of 5/28 at Melbourne among other splendid bowling performances missed out from making it to the final round.
Mushtaq Ali, a member of the 1932 touring team to England was given a special award presented to him by the Indian High Commissioner to London. On receiving the award he said that this was the happiest moment in his life.
The 'Indian Team of the Century award' went to Sunil Gavaskar's team of 1985, which won the Benson & Hedges World Cup in Australia. This came as a surprise to Gavaskar himself who felt that what 'Kapil's Devils' achieved by winning the 1983 World Cup could not be matched by an Indian team from any era. Other nominations that made the final round were Pataudi's 1967 team and Wadekar's 1971 team that beat the West Indies and England in consecutive series.
The Fairplay -Spirit of Cricket award was given to G.R. Vishwanath, who as captain of the Indian team had recalled Bob Taylor the England wicket keeper after he was declared out by the umpire. Eknath Solkar the close-in specialist and Vijay Hazare were the other nominees in this category.
VVS Laxman's astonishing innings of 281 against Australia at Calcutta, which brought about a dramatic turnaround in the match taking the Indian's from a follow-on to a victory was selected by the jury for the 'Indian Batting performance of the century'. Missing out were G.R.Viswanath for his knock against a fiery West Indian bowling line-up at Chennai and Kapil's spectacular innings of 175 against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. Laxman was earlier selected as Wisden's cricketer of the year.
Finally, the choice for the 'Wisden Indian cricketer of the century' award was a difficult one with three giants of Indian cricket making it to the final round- Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev. Their achievements in the cricket world are the stuff fairy tales are made off. They all have superb performances against all types of opposition in different countries and the jury would have conferred long and hard to arrive at their decision.
The people's choice award went to Sachin Tendulkar, but the choice of the jury for the 'Wisden Indian cricketer of the century ' was the 'Haryana Hurricane"-Kapil Dev.
Kapil Dev was a match winner for India on a number of occasions with stunning performances with both bat and ball. Kapil Dev who made his international debut at the age of 19 against Pakistan went on to score 5248 runs in Test cricket and took 434 wickets. At the one-day level, he was second to none with 3783 runs and 253 wickets.
More than the statistical aspect of his performance, it was his penetrative bowling and aggressive batting style that he will be long remembered for. No Indian cricket follower can forget the sight of a beaming Kapil Dev holding the World Cup trophy aloft at Lord's in 1983, after India humbled the mighty West Indies in the final.
Congratulations to Kapil Dev- The man of the moment as well as the Wisden Indian cricketer of the century.