On this day: Kapil Dev one wicket away from top

On this day in 1994, Kapil Dev equalled Sir Richard Hadlee’s record of 431 Test wickets.

Mohammad Azharuddin (left) hands his Man of the Match award to Kapil Dev, after Kapil equalled Hadlee's record, in Bangalore on January 30, 1994. - THE HINDU ARCHIVES

It was on Martyr’s Day that Kapil Dev joined Sir Richard Hadlee on the all-time list of Test wicket-takers — with the magical figure of 431. The Indian pace bowler had been something of a rarity. That he toiled so manfully on slow pitches in the country in over 15 years and stands now at the very peak of Test achievement is a matter of national pride.

It is only a matter of time before Kapil Dev leaves Hadlee, the bowling knight from New Zealand, behind. Just as another New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary, who came through India, to conquer Mount Everest, Hadlee had come to India in 1988 in search of the Test bowling record. Soon, it will be an Indian who will enjoy the privilege of being the top wicket-taker until a bowler of the next generation stays the taxing course to pass the mark that Kapil will leave behind.

Kapil played 64 of his 129 Tests in India to take 212 of his 431 wickets. He has also sent down more deliveries in Test cricket — 27,506 — than any other bowler. Besides holding the record of most number of wickets in one-day internationals — 248 — the all-rounder with a magnetic personality who is instantly recognised by millions and millions of his countrymen, has scored 5,227 Test runs (eight 100s) and taken 63 catches. He has also made 3,726 runs in one-day internationals.

The sole survivor of a quartet of classy all-rounders who held the cricket world in thrall between the mid-70's and the early 90's, Kapil Dev has several records to his credit. The one that triggers national emotion is his current achievement of getting 431 Test wickets, the last five of which he took in the Bangalore Test against Sri Lanka which India won by an innings and 95 runs.

On the day Kapil Dev took his 400th Test wicket in the Perth Test of 1992, Indian cricketers had expressed the wish that both the world Test batting and bowling records should be with Indians for a while. But Allan Border passed Sunil Gavaskar’s record Test aggregate of 10,122 last year.

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The mark that Kapil leaves may stay for a while longer as the ones most likely to pass the milestone, Shane Warne and Waqar Younis, are still young and are still around the 100-wicket mark in Tests.

The landmark of 431 Test wickets, coinciding with India’s Test win, was achieved amid scenes of great excitement.

The Indian captain, M. Azharuddin, who was adjudged the "man of the match" handed over the trophy to Kapil Dev in a sporting gesture that came in for great appreciation. The 35-year-old all-rounder from Chandigarh has appeared in 129 Tests since 1978 when he made his Test appearance in Pakistan and has played more Tests than anyone except Allan Border of Australia.

It is a testimony to his outstanding fitness that he has not missed a Test due to injury and the only one he did was when he was kept off for disciplinary reasons in circumstances that have never been explained properly.

This story was first published in The Hindu on January 31, 1994

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