Legendary Kapil Dev''s namesake is an Arjuna awardee spiker

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Ranchi, Feb 18 (PTI) When cricketer Kapil Dev Nikhanj wasconferred the Arjuna Award in 1979 his namesake and currentIndian Volleyball star from Kerala was born that year.

Thirty-two years later, K J Kapil Dev, the spiker,received the prestigious award for his fine on courtperformance in two Asian Games, four Asian VolleyballChampionships and SAF games.

Dev breaks into a big smile at the mention of hisnamesake. The over six-foot spiker says his sport isVolleyball -- a game very popular in Kerala alongside footballand athletics.

"An avid sports lover, my father inspired me to playVolleyball. He used to take me to a nearby ground nearThiruvananthapuram when I was 13 years of age.

"Then I played for a small club before playing sub-juniornationals and junior India," Dev, whose efforts went in vainas Kerala lost to Tamil Nadu in the Volleyball final of the34th National Games here yesterday, told PTI.

A substitute till 2003, Dev''s career took off when heplayed a pivotal role in a match against Pakistan in SAF gamesthat year.

"That was the turning point of my career," Dev, whocaptained India from 2005 to 2007, said.

Dev is optimistic of India fetching an Asian Games medalin the future.

"But the players should get more exposure in playingcompetitions in foreign countries where they can study theforeign teams playing against them," he added.

Perhaps, Dev nurses a regret deep within because he wasvirtually compelled to reject offers from foreign professionalclubs.

"I got a few offers from abroad. But the Railways where Iwork now don''t allow. Because dates clash with domestictournaments and Railway tournaments," Dev said, without hidinghis disappointment for not able to play in professionalleagues abroad.

"I will play another two or three years," Dev said.

Asked whether he would retire after three years, he said,"I have not yet decided on retirement. Let me see how long Ican play."

Asked whether he would follow the ensuing World Cupcricket, he said "Of course, we will root for M S Dhoni''steam, and wish the team luck." PTI PVR ATK

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