Mohali: The moment Monish DP Azad enters the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium's reception area, he is greeted by a number of people as 'Azadji'.
Monish DP Azad in Chandigarh yesterday. Pic//Harit N Joshi
"The love and goodwill that we enjoy is because of my father's contribution to cricket," a proud Monish tells mid-day at the PCA lounge.
Monish is the younger son of Desh Prem Azad, the coach of India's World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev. Azad also produced three other Test cricketers — Chetan Sharma, Ashok Malhotra and Yograj Singh. After his famous father passed away in August 2013, his sons Monish and Sanjeev changed their surname to Azad from Agarwal. "That's his legacy and we wanted to carry it forward. We have changed all our official documents to DP Azad thereafter," says Monish, who played first-class cricket for Punjab and was part of the India U-19 squad in 1990.
The Azads have been a contributing factor for India. DP Azad's father Watan Prem was a freedom fighter and Desh Prem produced the finest all-rounder for Indian cricket — Kapil Dev.
Monish can't forget Kapil's finest moment — the 1983 World Cup win: "A big crowd gathered where we lived then – in Sector 17. The fans lifted my father after we won the World Cup and that was a special moment for us."
Coach DP Azad throws a ball to Kapil Dev in a training session
Monish reminisces about an a heart-warming moment when Kapil called up his coach after breaking Richard Hadlee's world record of most Test wickets (434) in 1994. "They did not speak, only tears rolled down my father's cheeks. That is one moment which is very fresh in my memory," recalls Monish.
Monish felt the guru-shishya relationship is now missing in cricket coaching. "My father would visit the schools of his wards to check if they are not bunking classes. That love and affection is missing now. That dedication from students and coaches is missing and the results are there for everyone to see. Punjab doesn't have anyone in the reckoning for the national side after Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. It's a problem at the grassroot level," Monish says.
Coach DP Azad (centre) with Yograj Singh and Kapil Dev in the 1970s. Pic Courtesy: STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART. published by Rupa & Co
DP, the taskmaster
Monish (45) would often accompany his father to the nets and later, at the DP Azad Cricket Academy in Chandigarh. "My father was a taskmaster, a disciplinarian, but he was very jovial off the field. He would never compromise on punctuality," says Monish. There is a famous story of how DP Azad did not allow Kapil to practice for five days for being just five minutes late to training.
"He wouldn't allow a no-ball in the nets. He always maintained very high standards. And he never chased money. His aim was to produce a genuine fast bowler for India. He was selfless and a man on mission," he says.