There is no doubt that Kapil Dev will go down in history as arguably the greatest Indian cricketer of all time. A top all-rounder with nearly 700 international wickets and over 9,000 runs, a World Cup winning captain, named the Wisden Indian Cricketer of the Century, a celebrated coach and broadcaster, Kapil has done it all in his career on and off the ground. . However, the one aspect of his cricket career that many believe Kapil was unable to completely hang on to was the timing of his retirement.
Kapil ended his legendary 16-year career in 1994, but in the last year his bowling lacked the sharpness, the teeth that once made some of the best quicks in the world. Kapil broke the then record for most Test wickets held by Richard Hadlee in a Test match in Ahmedabad before calling it a day.
However, it was not an easy decision for Kapil. Kapil’s former India teammate and current BCCI Apex Council member Anshuman Gaekwad revealed that he was the one who convinced the champion all-rounder to take up the challenge as he was no longer as effective as he used to be. In 1994, Gaekwad was the national selector and once Kapil dismissed former Sri Lankan batsman Hassan Tillakaratne, he knew it was time to “talk”.
You can’t fire a player that big. We allowed him [Kapil] to play the Test series against Sri Lanka and he broke the world record in the Ahmedabad Test. We thought he would announce his retirement after breaking the record. However, he said at a press conference that evening that he would play for two more years. The next day, a seemingly disgruntled Vishy (Gundappa Vishwanath) told me, “Look at the credits. Kapil says he will play for two more years,” Gaekwad said, according to Mid-Day.
Kapil’s decision caught everyone, including then BCCI secretary Jagmohan Dalmiya and chairman of selectors Gundappa Vishwanath, by surprise. All three faced a difficult scenario as Kapil reached the end of his career and as the BCCI looks at the future of Indian cricket, Gaekwad decides to confront Kapil himself.
The national selection committee was held the same evening. [Jagmohan] Dalmiya was the BCCI secretary. So we sat and decided it was time for Kapil to quit. I suggested to Dalmiya that as the chairman and a senior member of the selection committee, Vishy [Viswanath] should talk to him. However, Vishy insisted that I accompany him. “We approached Kapil in the dressing room over tea. Vishy was not a straightforward person who would tell you you are doing something wrong on your face,” added Gaekwad, who also served as India’s head coach.
He was walking around while talking to someone. So I took the initiative. I said to Kapil, ‘Kapsi, we need to talk to you. The voters feel you have to quit now and you know it too. We will give you a farewell game of your choice, but you have to call it a day.” Kapil responded very nicely and said, “Thank you very much. I really appreciate what you told me.” You gotta do things like that sometimes, which I did.” After his retirement, Kapil remained low profile for several years before replacing Gaekwad as the head coach of the Indian team in 1999.