Bishan Singh Bedi Biography
He seemed to have the ball on a string — so incredible was his control of flight and loop. He could make the ball hold or hurry almost at will as it traversed the winding arcs in air.
Jim Laker — who in his lifetime had seen his fair share of bowlers — described his idea of heaven as Ray Lindwall bowling from one end and Bishan Singh Bedi from the other!
And the gentle run in, guile and grace remained unabated regardless of how long he continued to bowl. “When you have seen Bishan Bedi twirl down his spinners after 60 overs with the same gentle rhythm as he settled into at the start of the spell, you understand why his is a great bowling action. A clockmaker would have been proud to set Bedi in motion — a mechanism finely balanced, cogs rolling silently and hands sweeping in smooth arcs across the face,” remarked Tony Lewis.
Spinning a lethal web around batsmen for over a decade along with off-spinners EAS Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan, and leg-spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, he was part of the spin quartet who gilded the golden age of Indian slow bowling. On helpful wickets at home, bowling mostly as a trio, the spinners brought India numerous memorable wins — the first time the nation tasted triumphs with something amounting to regularity. A fair number of his successes came abroad as well.
The first Indian bowler to get to 200 wickets, his tally of 266 remained the highest for the country until Kapil Dev went past him in 1986.
The most outspoken of the legendary spinners, Bedi captained India for a few years with his own brand of guts, glory and a fair smattering of controversies. There was the memorable Test win at Queen’s Park Oval as India scored 406 in the fourth innings. In the following Test at Sabina Park, he characteristically refused to buckle under intimidation and declared the innings with just five wickets down and plenty in arrears, protesting against the tactics of Michael Holding and the others.
His direct and confrontational stance against the Vaseline gauze used by John Lever did shake the authorities, and coupled with a 1-3 series loss to England, he managed to ruffle some important feathers. But the big blow came against Pakistan, when a gamut of fleet-footed batsmen blew away the famous Indian spinners in a disastrous Test series. During that tour, Bedi also became the first captain to concede an international cricket match. In the ODI at Sahiwal, Indians were 23 runs away from victory with 14 balls and eight wickets remaining. At this juncture, Bedi called in his batsmen in protest against four bouncers Sarfraz Nawaz had bowled in succession, with the umpires neither warning the bowler nor calling wides.
The 0-2 Test series loss in the backyard of the arch rivals did not go down well, and Bedi was replaced at the helm by Sunil Gavaskar, a man with whom he did not exactly gel. Eventually, Bedi's omission from the Test side as well as subsequent retirement was tinged with the controversial relationships he shared with the captain.
After retirement, Bedi had a rather unsuccessful stint as manager of the Indian team. He remains an outspoken critic of modern day cricket, his colourful views occasionally getting more prominence than the fascinating left-arm spinner of yore.