Birthday wishes poured in from the cricketing fraternity for India's best all-rounder. Here is what players across generations, and from across the border, told Sportstar about the Haryana Hurricane, the elite fast bowler who also went at a fast clip with the bat and also dazzled as a fielder with his magnificent athleticism.
Kapil paaji played with my dad (Yograj Singh). I heard many inspirational stories about him. In terms of training and fitness he set new benchmarks for cricketers. He’s one of the greatest all-rounders to play the game. That he is from my home town is even more exciting. You feel proud that you know someone like Kapil paaji so well. I take great pride in the fact that in my generation all the young fast bowlers looked up to him. He was such an accomplished cricketer – good at bowling, batting and fielding. What more could a captain ask for!
I was born in 1979 when Kapil paaji was making his mark as an international career. As I grew up, my interest took roots in cricket and he was one of the key reasons for me taking to fast bowling. He is the torchbearer of fast bowling in India and I only realised his greatness when I played international cricket myself. I watched his bowling closely and loved his batting. I worked hard to imbibe his skills. His fitness was amazing. In fact, his longevity was a lesson for us. My generation of cricketers owed it Kapil paaji. I think he was a perfect athlete on the cricket field.
Kapil Dev means everything. He means cricket. He means batting, bowling and fielding. For a 12-year-old, watching Kapil Dev take wickets, make runs, pull off incredible catches, and then lift the World Cup, cricket meant nothing but Kapil Dev. He also symbolised winning. I was part of the Haryana team which won the Ranji Trophy in 1991 and it was all because of Kapil Dev leading the team, essentially a bunch of youngsters, who looked up to the best all-rounder the game has seen. To play alongside meant a world to players from my generation. That's why I called him ` Devon Ka Dev Kapil Dev.'
Kapil paaji was my hero. I may have bowled spin but I tried to bring in his attitude towards bowling. I always wanted to emulate his fitness. His stride was so athletic and his bowling a joy to watch. He inspired me with his bowling and I never missed an opportunity to watch his batting. He was better than many regular batsmen. His all-round abilities have been well documented and followed by almost every fast bowler of my generation. Can you show me an athlete like Kapil paaji? He was flawless in every aspect of the game. He was a winner all the way and was the reason why I became a cricketer.
Zaheer Abbas, former Pakistan captain
I was in Delhi recently and made it a point to meet my old friend Kapil. It is always a pleasure meeting him. We enjoy each others company and, even today, his positivity inspires many of us. He is soft-spoken and makes it a point to keep in touch with old friends.
We have so many memories together. He was undoubtedly a great player and a consistent performer for India. In those days, both India and Pakistan had great teams and Kapil was one of the most competitive cricketers I have come across. His performances against Pakistan were amazing and that spoke highly about his commitment, as a player and as a captain.
Every time the two teams would square off, we would look forward to giving our best and Kapil ensured that he enjoyed success. It is great to have played against him.
As he turns a year older, I wish I could visit him at his residence and wish him personally. But I will definitely try and call him. But knowing Kapil, it won’t be surprising if he only calls me up on his birthday. Take care, friend. Have a great year!
We all know who he was and what he could do. I am honoured to be playing cricket from the state where he played all his life. He also led the state to a Ranji Trophy title. If I manage to do even a little bit of what he has done in his career, I can perhaps be a fraction of the player he was.
There is no doubt he has made India and Haryana proud. I am a big, big fan.
When I was playing for India, I met him around the time of the World Cup in 2015. That first meeting was between a player and a star. He uttered my name. He asked, “Mohit, kya chal raha hai? (what’s up). I was stunned thinking that Kapil paaji knows my name. It was a big moment for me.
I definitely wish him a very happy birthday, but I also want to say how I admire him even now. The way he presents himself is so impressive. There is still so much to learn from him.
I wish to meet him more often so that I can learn new lessons.
Shoaib Mohammad, former Pakistan cricketer and a contemporary of Kapil Dev
When we think of Kapil Dev 'saab', the word genius comes straightaway to our mind. He belongs to the select brand of elite fast bowlers who will be remembered for positive attitude. He would never settle to just roll his arms over, he would always think and the tricks up his sleeves would come into play. In our team meetings, we used to discuss how not to throw away wickets to Kapil 'saab' early in the innings. The whole team used to get triggered if there were early wickets. That was the quality of the bowler. Every member of the Indian team used to back him.
He is respected in every part of the cricketing world. No wonder he has made such a big name. I am so glad I played against the man and happened to get a few runs. He was an all-rounder in every sense — batting, bowling, and also fielding.
We all used to respect his qualities. I wish Kapil Dev 'saab' a very happy birthday. I will wish the best for him now and always.
He was a great captain, a great human being. He has been an inspiration for bowlers who came into cricket after his generation. Kapil paaji set a standard and manual for us to follow. I would like to wish him a very happy birthday.
Kapil Dev is an idol for all of us. He was a complete cricketer — a great bowler, a great fielder and a really good captain. For the young generation, he is an idol and an inspiration. He is a very loving person and I have had the opportunity of meeting him on many occasions and he has got a positive energy.
I remember during one of the commentary stints last year, he came to the studio and started playing an imaginary air guitar. The environment became so lively thereafter.
For me, Kapil paaji is even special for a different reason. When I started playing for India, the media started comparing me with him and for a young cricketer, that was the biggest compliment. A cricketer like him comes once in a lifetime. It has been a pleasure knowing you, paaji !
I have known Kapil since the early years and he has always been a determined cricketer. At a time when we were dreaming of just playing the Ranji Trophy, Kapil knew he would play for India. I remember, in friendly chats, he would tell us: “I will play at least one or two Tests.” And he actually kept his word. He has always been full of energy and an extremely confident cricketer.
I remember in his first Test, some of the top Pakistani players tried intimidating him, but Kapil was determined to stamp his class and the rest is history. Kapil was passionate since early days, but we did not know that our friend would one day turn into a legend. Wish you a great birthday, friend!