Just one week after India won the Cricket World Cup for the first time in 28 years, fans of the Indian cricket team had another reason to celebrate.
MP Keith Vaz arranged a visit from Kapil Dev, renowned cricketer and captain of the famous 1983 side who won the last World Cup for India.
Kapil Dev spent the day in Leicester, first visiting Soar Valley College to open their new cricket ground. The ground will be named Kapil Square after him and will give students at the college a chance to hone their skills and emulate their hero.
Three lucky students at the college got to play cricket with India’s former national coach. Two of them batted a ball thrown by Kapil Dev and one bowled a ball for him to bat.
The Principal of Soar Valley College, Melvyn Berry, said, “We’re here for that magical moment when we can open our cricket pitch. It was absolutely terrific. Kapil Dev is a legend. He is a real inspirational figure for our students.”
Kapil Dev then visited one of the Asian sweet shops on Belgrave Road and attended a question and answer session at Belgrave Neighborhood Centre.
As early as half an hour before he was due to arrive, people started lining the pavements of Belgrave Road looking for his car. People of all ages waited for a glimpse of the sporting legend, some even took the day off work for the chance to shake the hand of the famous cricketer.
Pukaar News spoke to some of the people waiting to meet him. Everyone there was excited and proud to be Indian. One man said, “Kapil Dev is my hero. 1983 was a good year for us.”
Speaking about the recent victory, he added, “I’m proud of India for winning in 2011. They played well. Especially against such good sides, for example England and South Africa.”
Kapil Dev’s arrival was announced by Dholis and a crowd of people. He waved from his open top car and shook hands with fans as he was driven down Belgrave Road. Everyone wanted the chance to be close to the man who had led India to such spectacular success.
The first questions he was asked were put to him by Neville Foulger, a sports reporter from Leicester Mercury.
He spoke about a variety of subjects such as his part in India’s cricket success, his appreciation of the game, the way Indian peoples’ attitude to sport have changed and how much he enjoys being in England. He had the crowd laughing with his quick wit and easy-going manner.
When asked why he had never played for Leicester, he joked, “Shall I come back and play then?”
Behind where Kapil Dev was sitting on stage was a picture of him from 1983, just after his team had won the World Cup. Neville Foulger asked about ‘the man in the picture’ and Kapil Dev quipped, “You mean my younger brother? That’s my younger brother. He was in all the pictures, I got all the girls.”
Asked whether he preferred to bat or bowl he said, “It’s like asking if you have a son and a daughter, which one do you love more.”
When the audience were asked to come up with questions, one young boy asked how Kapil Dev had felt when he’d won the World Cup. “Sad,” he replied. He paused before laughing, “No, I’m joking, I was very happy.”
After the questions, a signed ball and bat were given by Kapil Dev to two lucky winners. Pukaar News spoke exclusively to one of the winners, a young girl called Devi who said, “I’m a huge fan of cricket. We all wanted to meet the World Cup champion. I’m very happy to win the bat signed by – the one and only Kapil Dev.”