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|April 10, 2000||
Kudos for KapilAbhilasha Khaitan
You can love a sport for two reasons. One, you love to play it (and think you do it damn well!). Two, you love to watch it played, and watch those who play it well.
I fall into the second category. Not because I wouldn't love to play it, because I would, I would! But, intent is one thing, and capability is yet another. So, I confine myself to being a part of the adoring audience. I watch, applaud and enjoy.
Let me state at the outset, that this enjoyment and love didn't stem from an appreciation of technique or wonder at skill. Not then, at the age of 10. That you can't expect that from me today either, is another story altogether! Well, so I care about the game but the wonders of a straight bat and the rudiments of the other 'un don't get me going as much as the more obvious exploits of my cricketing heroes on the field.
It was in 1983, World Cup having been won, a certain face smiling behind the trophy, plastered all over television, newspapers and magazines. And glimpses of that epic innings (albiet in photographs because destiny had it that the media was on strike that day) and re-runs of that running catch did the trick. A serious case of hero-worship had begun. It still persists.
So what if my first cricketing hero plays golf now, is coaching a team trying its best not to lose (can't bring myself to use the word win) and is no longer the world's highest wicket taker.
Didn't stop me from wincing when Walsh waltzed to position 1. And the world hailed the new emperor. Like any other Indian cricketing fan, my fervour is strictly biased. So, I prayed for rain-abandonded Test matches in the West Indies and all such irrational and peurile thoughts.
Kapil Dev lost his crown, but he remains a hero in my books and many others'. Of those who watched him do his thing on the cricket field. What others called recklessness in his game, I call self-belief. So what if he scoops one down long off's throat when the team needs him to bat some more? He though he'd cleared the boundary, and God knows he has reason to believe he could.
So what if he outplayed his innings by a couple of years? He was fit and fighting for a record which he deserved as much as anybody could. (All you cynics, try bowling on the sub-continent wickets for 16 years) So what if he didn't speak the language of a diplomatic leader? He spoke the language he knew best, better than most did or can do. The language of sportsmanship and grit.
Yep, this is a eulogy (as close to it as I can get without getting really gooey). And I really wanted to do this because I believe in heroes. And if Indian cricket ever boasted of a hero, Kapil Dev had to be him. Funny thing about heroes though. They never seem to need re-assurance as much their fans do!
What the heck. Uncork the champagne indeed, Courtney. We'll celebrate with you too.
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