Kapil calls it a day after 16-year career at the top - D.J.Rutnagur

INDIA`S Kapil Dev, one of the outstanding quartet of all- rounders who adorned Test cricket in the 1980s, joined his con- temporaries, Ian Botham, Sir Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan, in retirement yesterday to end an international career spanning 16 years. Kapil, 35, captured a record 434 Test wickets and amassed 5,248 runs in the most exciting manner. He scored eight centuries and 27 fifties. Many of his innings either opened the door to victory or salvaged honour in defeat. The swagger with which Ka- pil strode the field portrayed courage and confidence, and as batsman, bowler and captain he was overawed neither by his adver- saries nor by situations.

His most outstanding feats with bat and ball were against the big three - England, Australia and the West Indies. He was combative, but without ever giving offence. He enjoyed cricket too much to soil it with unbecoming conduct. Already involved in the media as director of a features agency, Kapil has been contracted as a commentator by India`s national TV network, Doordarshan. Although Kapil is reported to have looked relaxed at a press conference in New Delhi to announce his retirement, heis said to have been re- luctant to depart the scene. Apparently, he was keen on anoth- er skirmish with the West Indies in the forthcoming Test series and would have liked to take his final bow in his native Chandi- garh, the venue of the lastTest, just before Christmas. Kapil`s hand, however, was forced by the selectors dropping him from the squad currently engaged in the triangular one-day series.

To the end, Kapil was not lacking for accuracy, but his strike rate had dropped to an embarrassing level and it was only on reputation that he stayed in the game. It was after four decades of waiting, since the pre-War era of Mohammed Nissar and L Amar- singh that India, in 1978, discovered in Kapil Dev a pace bowler of the highest class. He started Test cricket at a very brisk fast-mediumbut, for most of his career, relied on guile, swing and cut for wickets. Kapil`sstrike rate - a wicket every 63.81 balls - suffers in comparison with those of Botham, Hadlee and Imran. But account must be taken of two factors. Firstly, he played more than half his Test matches at home, on pitches without soul. Also, for most of his career, his new- ball partner was poor. It is Kapil`s belief also that an excess of one-day cricket had a detrimental effect on his Test per- formances. Hard work took a toll of Kapil`s knees. Nevertheless, his Test appearances would have been consecutive but for his omission from the Calcutta Test against England in 1984-85, as penalty for a wanton shot at Delhi which contributed to de- feat. Kapil`s all-round achievements overshadow his worth as a bold, positive captain. He led India, hitherto the minnows of overs-limit cricket, to victory in the 1983 World Cup competi- tion. Twice he was deposed from captaincy, once after losing to the West Indies a home series, and then after defeat in the 1987 World Cup. He played for both Northamptonshire and Wor- cestershire in the 1980s but failed to make a significant im- pact.

Thanks :: The Daily Telegraph