On this day: A hurricane makes its way to the Indian team

India's first World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev made his debut against Pakistan on October 16. It was, as he recollected, a moment he had waited for.

A file picture of Kapil Dev, who scored an unbeaten 175, to pull India out of depths, to facilitate a 32-run victory over Zimbabwe, in a Group B match of the Prudential World Cup at Tunbridge Wells on June 18, 1983.   -  The Hindu Archives

Back in the room from a practice session of golf in Miyazaki, where he is part of the Indian team for the Asia Pacific Seniors event, Kapil Dev takes time to respond when reminded of his debut at Faisalabad on October 16, 1978.

“Forty years. I didn’t realise that. Thanks for reminding me. How could I forget the day. It was a momentous occasion for me to be playing for India,” recalled Kapil, taking a quick peep into the past.

It was, as he recollected, a moment he had waited for. “What I remember the most was that I did not sleep at all the night before of the game. I went to the manager (Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad) and shared my problem with him. I was so nervous at the thought of playing for India in the company of me heroes. I had heard about them and was now going to be part of the match they were to figure in.”

Kapil made an impact in his own way. Pakistan openers, Majid Khan in his trademark floppy hat, and Sadiq Mohammed, wearing a cap, soon discovered the debutant fast bowler from India had to be treated with respect.

Majid had had a first-hand experience at Ferozeshah Kotla six months before the Test when Kapil had removed his middle stump with a brilliant delivery in the Abbas Ali Baig Benefit Match. The crowd, having turned up in a large number, was stunned. “I remember taking Conrad Hunte’s wicket too in that match,” Kapil pointed out.

For Sadiq, it was some experience in the Test. Rattled by a steeply rising ball from Kapil, the left-handed Sadiq quickly and wisely gestured for a helmet. Years later Sunil Gavaskar would proudly narrate the incident to us in the press box whenever mention was made of Kapil.

It was not a 'planned' move by Kapil to bowl with aggression. “The Pakistanis are known for their aggression. They had Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Ahmed in their ranks. I was excited playing against them. Also, I was told not to play the hook shot but I remember going in as night-watchman and hooking the first bouncer I faced. I never gave up that shot.  

Going back to that day, Kapil said, “I was more nervous at the thought of playing with my heroes than taking on Pakistan. Those days there was no cap-presenting ceremony to the debutant. One had to make a speech. All I could mumble was 'chuck de phatte' (come on, let’s do it). Actually I was totally clueless about the whole thing. I just blurted what came to me instantly.”

The match, and the entire tour, was a 'great learning experience' for Kapil. “I was raw. You can say I was wayward the way I bowled. But then it was only my first series and it took me time to come to terms with nervousness. It was a wonderful experience though. Honestly, I never thought of how long I would play for India. I just wanted to bowl endlessly. I would bowl in the nets. I would bowl in the match obviously. I just wanted to bowl.”

Of his 434 Test wickets, Kapil claimed 215 on home pitches. “Yes, it was a hard toil. Indian pitches generally assist the spinners but my focus was clear. I enjoyed the responsibility because it showed the faith the captain and the team had in me.”

“It’s been a long journey.” What else did he remember of his Test debut? “The Pakistanis were letting out abuses in Punjabi. I gave it back to them. I am not abusive by nature but I loved it. They stopped after some time.’