OSIAN auction

The cricketing greats: (from left) Anshuman Gaekwad, Bishan Singh Bedi, Madhav Mantri, Ajit Wadekar, Salim Durani and Erapalli Prasanna at a book launch (Photo courtesy: Sudatta Mukherjee)

By Sarang Bhalerao

Mumbai: Sept 7, 2013

The Friday evening at the Cricket Club of India was full of cricket nostalgia. The legends of the game Bishan Singh Bedi, Ajit Wadekar, Erapalli Prasanna and Anshuman Gaekwad talked about the rich heritage of cricket and the need to preserve the rich cricketing legacy.

With the mushrooming of Twenty20 league and the modern day bats making less-gifted batsmen look extraordinary the art of classical spin bowling is rarely seen. Prasanna said: “The trick lies in deceiving the batsman in flight.” Prasanna said that the current bowlers adopt a containment policy rather than getting the batsman out.

Prasanna was talking at OSIAN’s opening auction preview of India’s great cricketing memorabilia at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai on Friday. The auction is scheduled on September 13 at the CCI.
The panellists talked about how modern cricket can take a cue from the rich cricketing heritage that exists in India. Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi said that “Cricket, to a large extent, is a growing industry. It was there long before we played. It is very difficult to convince the present lot about the history of cricket.”

Madhav Mantri, India’s oldest Test cricketer alive, graced the occasion with cricketing anecdotes. The panellists appealed that stories and rich anecdotes of Mantri should be recorded to keep the legacy of Indian cricket intact.

Twin wins in 1971

Wadekar, who was one of the panellists, led India to famous wins in the West Indies and England in 1971. “We started believing that we could start winning,” said Wadekar who kick-started Indian cricket’s renaissance.  

Bedi said one of the high moments of the series was Salim Durani’s bowling. Durani dismissed Clive Llyod and Garry Sobers in quick succession as India dismissed West Indies in the second innings and went onto chase a modest total at Port-of-Spain.

Anshuman Gaekwad said that the feeling of 1971 wins was unbelievable. “There had to be some start and the wins gave a sense of knowing you can do it,” said Gaekwad who went on to play for India five years later. The wins gave Gaekwad the belief that he could take up cricket as a career option.

Domestic cricket

Gaekwad talked about the dwindling attendance of the spectators in the domestic cricket. “Not many go to watch Test matches in India, forget Ranji Trophy,” said Gaekwad.

“When we were playing, there were crowd of 35,000 for a Ranji Trophy and we had police bandobast and ticket sales,” told the former India opener.

Wadekar said that he developed the fighting ability by playing domestic cricket. “We (Bombay) won the Ranji Trophy for 15 consecutive times before Prasanna’s Karnataka broke that streak,” said Wadekar.

“Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy had a lot of significance, When we played, we used to feel so envious of Bombay who were winning Ranji Trophy season after season that they made the others feel that they don’t know to play cricket. My personal battle with Wadekar began in Ranji Trophy. The battle between BSB and AW helped Indian cricket. There was the hunger to perform,” said Bedi, who stressed on the importance of First-Class cricket in the overall development of the cricketer.

Indian Premier League

Bedi said IPL is pure entertainment. He said IPL is the Vidya Balan of Indian cricket. Bedi lashed out at BCCI saying that when the cricketers got one-time benefits the board made it appear that the benefits were given thanks to IPL. “The board had the money before the wretched IPL came to picture,” Bedi said.

Prasanna said that the Indian team is currently the best fielding unit thanks to the IPL.

Gaekwad credited IPL for increasing the fan following. “Indian team was getting lethargic, going low like the West Indies. What IPL did was it enlightened the entire game suddenly,” said Gaekwad.

Did the panellists collect the souvenirs too?

Wadekar said where was OSIAN when they were playing cricket. He said all the cricketing equipment he had was either torn or thrown out. Talking about collecting the souvenirs he said: “We used to collect to remember the occasion. After winning The Oval Test in 1971, crowd invaded the pitch. Farookh Engineer and Abid Ali, who scored the winning runs, had to be escorted to the dressing room by the police. Suddenly, Abid sprinted back to the ground to pick up as stump as a souvenir.”

Prasanna told that he wanted to keep the ball with which he had got nine West Indies wickets in Chennai. He wanted to keep the ball and asked the umpires about it. Prasanna said, “I asked the umpires and they told me to give it back to them as they had to return it to the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association!”

Memorable moments

Bedi said winning three series back-to-back — two away from home and one at home — was a terrific achievement. He said he was lucky to be part of that team. Bedi praised Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Wadekar for their captaincy and instilling the belief that India can win. Bedi said: “You play any sport to win and not while away your time. Winning creates a distinct sense of achievement.”

Prasanna was part of India’s first away series win in 1967. He said: “There was no euphoria at that time because New Zealand were considered as a mere pushover. Wadekar’s form, Bedi coming to limelight, Chandu Borde’s form helped them leave a legacy behind.”

Wadekar became the manager of the Indian team in the 1990s. India were unbeaten at home from 1993 to 2000. A lot of this was because of the discipline he instilled in the team. “When we went to South Africa for the first time in 1992-93, I could find our team going haywire. Our focus was getting lost. I had to implement some discipline into the team. The players then started realising their own potential,” said Wadekar.

(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)