Vidyuth called me late last night to inform me that Kapil Dev was visiting the MLJaisimha Cricket Academy today and invite me over. Kapil was in town for a lecture at Microsoft later in the day and at Aunty's invitation, he came straight from the airport to the Academy. I went there sharp at 945 in the morning and by then Kapil, who had just arrived, had already got down to the business of talking to the 30 odd young cricketers, watched by an indulgent media contingent.
He looked very fit for his 50 odd years of age and had the same energy about him that one associates with him from all these years. He speaks with an infectious enthusiasm about anything and is a game listener. I listened to his talk with the boys which was wonderful and hope to reproduce most of what I heard.
"The key to success is hard work, he said. There is no substitute for that. And when I mean hard work I mean honest hard work.It is not about how long you were away from home or how long you spent at the academy but about how many balls you bowled, how many balls you faced, how many catches you took, Be honest with yourself and seek to improve."
"At your age - 14 to 18 - you can put in fifteen hours of work. As you go older you learn to conserve your energy for the big moments when you need it. But for now, work hard and long."
"You must desire it with all your heart. And when you desire something with all your heart, things just fall in place. I play golf now and play it with the same enthusiasm that I played cricket. So getting up at 530 in the morning is not a problem at all for me. In fact I don't need an alarm to wake up because I want to be there. I want to play golf. That is what you must also want."
"Get all the basics right. Can you bowl six out swingers in an over. Only after you perfect that basic requirement should you go onto the next variation. But if one ball goes the other way or you are not able to bowl an out swinger as planned it is back to the drawing board. Nothing like practice to make perfect."
"Every time you are in a practice session you must seek to attain what you want to achieve. If you are bowling well on four days then try to bowl well on all six days or seven days. And practice, practice, practice until you become perfect."
"The champion does what the others cannot do. And he prepares himself for that. That is why he can do what others cannot do. When Sachin plays his cover drive it looks like poetry whereas when someone else plays the same cover drive it may not look as good. That is because he has practiced it until he has perfected it."
"You must believe in yourself. That you can do it, that you can achieve whatever you set your mind on. There are lots of people with talent. But very few who can convert talent into performance."
"Question the coach. Apply what he is saying. Apply what you think you should be doing according to your thoughts. See what works for you and use it. I remember my coaches asking me to take a huge leap at the end of my run. I did not agree with that. I figured that if I was in the air longer I would lose momentum and that would reduce my pace drastically. So I decided to take a short leap and keep my legs on the ground for maximum pace. You must also try and use what works best for you."
"The match against Zimbabwe - what was going in my mind? Nothing. I don't think you should have anything in your mind because it clutters the mind. You will lose concentration. If you think of the dressing room then you are there and not on the ground. If you are on the ground be on the ground, if you are at home be at home, if you are eating eat. So all I thought was about the ball and the bat and how they would meet. If I think of anything else I will be in pressure and I will not be able to perform."
"Learn to concentrate. Cricket is a game of concentration just like any other sport. One mistake and you are back. To improve concentration, you must start by developing it in the nets, then while doing all the other things too. Concentrate while eating, while wearing clothes, while studying, while in class, while listening and this becomes a practice. Start practising all these skills with concentration. You have many distractions these days so it is all the more necessary to concentrate harder on what you want."
"When you have a ball in your hand as a medium pacer or as a spinner you must treat it well. You must shine it and keep it in the best condition. You must respect it and only then will it work for you. Shine the ball and it will work wonders for you. Whether you use sweat or saliva, or just shine the ball, I don't care, long as you do not do anything negative or illegal like using vaseline."
"The best batsmen in the world, from Bradman to Gavaskar, Richards to Sachin, they can easily play the fastest of bowlers if they bowl straight but swing bowling will always bother them. That is because a moving target is always difficult to play."
"Whether you play cricket or anything else the idea is to become good people. You must learn to do whatever you do well, with discipline, and that will help you in whatever you are doing."
"Cricket will leave you one day. You will play for twenty or thirty years. But education will always be with you till the end. So study and study well."
"Always question. Never feel shy. It will take you nowhere. Ask and ask and ask."
"Success never comes easy. Practice is out on the field. One who cannot enjoy the sweet smell of sweat will never become a champion."
Kapil combined the basics of cricket to a small group of young cricketers who had not played any grade of cricket with some of the greatest inspirational and motivational techniques to achieve success. And more impressively he combined it with some brilliant philosophy - of excellence, of living a life that is full and meaningful as a human, of respecting the game, the equipment, the environment and obviously the people. I don't think the audience at Microsoft will get anything more than this.
And like a true champion, he gave this small gathering his all, added value to the maximum, made a difference to several people, and left without giving any further quotes to the press. I have said so much, he said, write about it!
The passion, the commitment, the intention was obvious. Kapil Dev is indeed a true champion!