The greatest all-rounder in Indian cricket, Kapil Dev competed with Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee for the kudos of being best all-rounder in the world during the 1980s. By the time he retired from the Test arena in 1994, Kapil had made 5,248 runs at an average of 31.05 and had created a world record, at that time, of 434 Test wickets at 29.64.
In a country where cricketers are treated like film stars, Kapil was one of the brightest and the most popular. Widely seen as the people's champion, he became the living symbol of the hopes and aspirations of millions of his countrymen during the course of his 16-year Test career. Not only was he a world-class all-rounder, but, as his country's captain, he always led by example.
Indian cricket, with its dry and dusty pitches and its spinner-friendly surfaces, does not have much of a seam bowling tradition and Kapil, who became perhaps India's first world-class medium-pacer with his stock out swinger, often had to carry the Indian attack on his own. But he was equal to the task and took five wickets or more in a Test innings 23 times during his career. His best performance in Tests was a magnificent 9-83 against the West Indies in Ahmedabad in 1983-84.
Whether with bat or ball or in his role as captain, Kapil played a crucial role in most of India's Test wins in the late 1970s and 1980s. Several of his best displays came in Madras: 11 wickets and a knock of 84 in a victory over Pakistan in 1979-80 and centuries during the famous tie with Australia in 1986-87 and also during a win over the West Indies in 1987-88. In a single session at Lord's in 1982, after tea, he smacked a rapid 89 and still had time to claim three England wickets before the close.
In one-day internationals, Kapil was equally effective and played in 225 limited-overs matches, scoring 3,783 runs and taking 253 wickets. Almost certainly, his finest hour came during the 1983 World Cup in England when India were on the verge of an embarrassing defeat to Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. With his side reeling at 17 for five, Kapil proceeded to hammer the Zimbabwe attack for a devastating 175 not out which included 16 fours and six sixes. This was one of the greatest one-day innings ever played and India, under his captaincy, went on to win the match and, even more memorably, they upset the mighty West Indies in the tournament final at Lord's.
Kapil Dev only entered cricket by accident. At 13, one of the Chandigarh sector teams turned out to be a player short and Kapil was brought in. He impressed so much that he became a regular fixture. His outstanding Test career began in October of 1978 against Pakistan and it finally came to a close against New Zealand in 1994. He was named as India's national team coach in September, 1999, for a two-year term.