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Kapil Dev Once Flew Into A Rage On Being Told He Couldn't Have Red Wine With Ice And Chilled Soda

The valuable lesson he taught me from that incident.

31/10/2017 9:53 AM IST | Updated 31/10/2017 9:54 AM IST
Mark Manuel

I was invited to give a TED Talk in Mumbai last week. I was told the theme was 'Illogically Logical', which I found mystifying. The organisers explained, "What may seem farfetched and illogical at the beginning can turn out to be the root of the most cardinal actions we carry on in our life, if only we take that first step to bring it to realization."

They wanted their speakers to elaborate on how even the smallest ideas that may seem 'illogical' at first, when nurtured, could change and leave a 'logical' impact on life later on – if only we said yes. I said yes. The slogan of TED Talks is 'Ideas Worth Sharing'. And I had an 'illogically logical' idea or a story that had inspired me and was worth sharing.

The hero of my story is Kapil Dev. And the story goes back to 2001. He was then in the wilderness, declared persona non grata by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on the charges of match fixing, and silently sulking out of the public eye.

Reuters Photographer / Reuters
Former Indian cricket coach and captain Kapil Dev gestures during a news conference in New Delhi, November 20, 2001.

In his words, Kapil had bid adieu to the game that gave him so much and then took a great deal of it away on the mere accusations of a third party. He had taken up golf instead. I wanted to interview him over dinner at the Oberoi in Mumbai. But Kapil was an early sleeper. He had dinner at 7:30 pm. Also, he wanted to eat light, and not Indian food.

"I am playing golf early tomorrow morning," Kapil apologised. "Plus, I have crossed 40, I tend to put on weight easily. It affects my game of golf. So I am careful about what I eat. My wife Romi says it's best to lead a clean and simple life. Nobody can object to that."

"Do whatever makes you happy"

I had no objection. So the interview was fixed for lunch. Kapil entered the restaurant nattily dressed in a black tee and grey trousers, looking tall, lean and sharp. There was a sudden hush. The clatter of silverware against china, the titter of laughter, the sound of clinking glasses all died down. He was used to people staring when he made an entry. After a swift look around, like he was doing a reconnoiter of the cricket field before stepping up to bat, Kapil came to my table avoiding the curious gazes of the other diners.

The maitre d'hôtel, bowing and beaming, offered him the drinks and food menu. Kapil pushed them away. He knew what he wanted. I got my first shock when he ordered a blue cheese salad. Just when I was recovering, he asked for a glass of red wine, ice and a chilled soda.

I know a little about wines and I was appalled by his choice. Gently, so as not of offend him, I told Kapil, "Mr. Dev, you do not drink wine with ice and soda."

That killed the interview before it even started. He flew into a terrible rage. The famous temper from his cricketing days surfaced.

"Who told you that you cannot drink wine with ice and soda?" Kapil screamed. "Yes, I want to know who told you! Where is it written?"

"Who told you that you cannot drink wine with ice and soda?" Kapil screamed. "Yes, I want to know who told you! Where is it written?"

Quaking in my seat, I tried to pacify him. But Kapil was not having any of that.

"You think I don't know what I want to drink," he thundered. Everybody was looking and listening, spellbound.

"I have been around the world, how many times have you gone? I have won the World Cup for India, how many people can say that?" he continued, glaring around the restaurant. Everybody lowered their eyes. He huffed and puffed for a while, chewing at his moustache angrily, nostrils flared, eyes glinting.

Then tapping the table, Kapil said, "Look, I understand you drink red wine at room temperature and white wine chilled. I know you keep the bottle open to let the wine breathe and release the bouquet and all that. But why don't you understand that I like my wine with ice and soda? That's my choice! What should you object?"

He gave me a sunny smile, flashing all his big white teeth, and placed a friendly hand on my shoulder. What he told me then I will never forget.

He calmed down as quickly as he had exploded. And I got my interview done. When we had finished, I thanked him, then apologised for my earlier indiscretion. Kapil was large-hearted and forgiving. He gave me a sunny smile, flashing all his big white teeth, and placed a friendly hand on my shoulder. What he told me then I will never forget.

"Do whatever makes you happy," he advised me. "And don't let anybody or the world tell you that what you are doing is wrong. I am not a fool to drink wine with ice and soda. The wine experts may not approve. But they cannot tell me not to drink it. I can have any drink I want. Yet this is my choice. And you know why? Because it's my high. It makes me happy!"

I concluded my TED Talk by telling the audience, "Kapil didn't say it in so many words, but what he said was 'Illogically Logical', and it made all the sense in the world to me."

They gave a big hand of applause. I suspect it was for Kapil Dev more than me.

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