Remembering Bishan Singh Bedi on his 75th birthday

Bishan Singh Bedi, a former Indian cricketer was born on 25th September 1946. On Saturday, he celebrated his 75th birthday. He was primarily a slow left-arm orthodox bowler. He played the test cricket matches for India from 1966 to 1979. This person also formed part of the famous Indian spin quartet. He took a total of 266 wickets and played about 67 Tests. He also captained the nation in 22 Test matches. This person has also voiced outspoken and forthright views on cricketing matters. He was awarded the Padma Shri award in 1970.

On Friday, a day before his 75th birthday, a book on him was launched named ‘The Sardar of Spin’. He sat in a wheelchair surrounded by doting fans and former teammates at the launch.

Bedi took up cricket at the age of 13 which is quite a late age for this sport. He played for Northern Punjab at the age of 15 only. He moved to Delhi in 1968-1969. In the 1974-1975 season of the Ranji Trophy, he took 64 wickets. He finished his career with 1560 wickets in first-class cricket. This was more than any Indian could ever do. His bowling was graceful and some might even consider it artistry. He was an expert in flighting the ball and could hold it back and even hurry forward. He further added subtle variations of spin. This bowler was a great asset to any captain because his bowling was relaxed and he could bowl all day with rhythm and control. He had several very successful Test series during his time.

 His best first-class bowling was 7/5 for New Delhi v/s Jammu and Kashmir in 1974-75. He was not so good at batting. His highest score was that of 50 not out, his only half-century at Test level. It was scored against New Zealand in Kanpur 1976. He was appointed the captain of the Indian team the same year. He was succeeding Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. His first Test victory as captain was against the West Indies where India scored 406 in the fourth innings. This was followed by a 2-0 series victory over New Zealand at home. After he lost to England (3-1), Australia (3-2), and Pakistan (2-0), Sunil Gavaskar replaced him as captain.

Bedi is second to Lance Gibbs in terms of maiden overs per test, 16.35 against 16.62. In 2008, Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack named Bedi as one of the best five cricketers who have not been selected as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year. According to Bedi, he even washed his own clothes saying that it was the best exercise for the shoulders and fingers. On being asked why he pointed out that spin bowling required suppleness of the limbs which could be achieved by washing clothes.

In 1990, after he had managed a tour where India’s performance was poor, he threatened to dump the entire team in the sea on the return journey. Bedi holds the world record for the most economical bowling figures in a 60-over ODI match among the bowlers who already completed their quota of 12 overs.

Seven months after his brain clot surgery, Bedi is slightly frail. On his birthday, he cuts the cake shaped like a cricket ball. His son Angad and daughter Neha stand on either side. His wife Anju stands behind and plants a kiss on his cheek. Each one is aware that this moment is a very special gift for all of them.

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