Erased from memory
Any Indian cricketing aficionado planning a trip to the famous Nevill, better known as Tunbridge Wells ground, please get along any picture of Kapil Dev and chances are you could be knighted. Remember: any picture. Dinesh Chopra writes. Unsung at 75cricket Updated: Sep 04, 2011 02:40 IST
It's a sub-editor's delight because of a readymade headline - No Kapil At The Nevill. But in reality it's a bit like life without Facebook, Lord's minus Dilip Vengsarkar or the All-England club sans Roger Federer. Any Indian cricketing aficionado planning a trip to the famous Nevill, better known as Tunbridge Wells ground, please get along any picture of Kapil Dev and chances are you could be knighted. Remember: any picture.
In a country that thrives on its history - cricketing or otherwise - it is surprising that Kapil Dev's almost awakening 175 during the 1983 World Cup gets a mention only on the club's website, www.tunbridgewellscc.org.uk. That, if you navigate, you will find on the section: Click here for a little history."We have a lot about our own history but unfortunately nothing on Kapil Dev. We'd love to have something on him - a picture or a plaque, anything. We definitely are extremely proud that Kapil produced that magic at our club and the respect for that doesn't change at all," says Steve Green, Chairman of Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club.
Away from this one slip, the ground can win any beauty pageant hands down, if ever there was one for cricket venues. The approach through the town of Tunbridge through Forest Road into Hawkenbury to Warwick Park presents a collage of a few thousands watching Kapil belting those sixes against Zimbabwe on June 18, 1983.
Once there, the gate of the Nevill Club could be from any Charles Dickens novel. Trees around the ground dot the canvas with pride. Each one seems to tell a story of that day when they let the breeze gatecrash the venue to leave India struggling. They soon realised their mistake and went into a huddle. This kept the elements at bay and Kapil went berserk, plastering 16 fours and a six.
"Back in 1983 I was about 26 or 27," recalls club vice chairman Steve Niker. "Kapil hit one ball over the clubhouse here and it went into the garden of a nearby house. I can testify that since then no one has ever been able to hit the ball that long. All this was far removed from the start that they got. At 17 for five there was complete panic amongst the Indians. In the absence of proper directions to the ground, even India's High Commissioner to the UK got to the ground late and later said he was worried that India could be bowled out before he could make it."
The scoreboard is an archival highlight yet visible from anywhere in the ground. The clock besides seems a touch unhappy, as after witnessing one legend unfold, the future looked promising but sadly international cricket hasn't returned here.
"We'd have loved to host India or any other visiting team for any fixture. But I really don't know why we do not get any international fixtures," said Green. May be Kent County Cricket Board needs to look at it. The media box can give a bit away though, why there hasn't been international cricket. The box with wooden benches can at best hold about 10 people.
The clubhouse is inviting and its walls depict history. The sketch of the late Bob Woolmer, who once played for the club, is beaming from the wall. Former Pakistan captain, Asif Iqbal, is in the collage of Kent captains. To the right is the bar, well stocked and indeed well attended. The venue now also boasts of a modern set of synthetic pitches. Girls and boys of various age groups are regulars here. They perhaps would never get to know that their 'cricketing school' was placed on the world map by the great all-rounder Kapil Dev, sitting about 7,000 km away in New Delhi. Any pictures, please.
(Dinesh Chopra works for ESPN's SPORTSCENTER)