Happy birthday, Bishan Singh Bedi: The straight shooter who makes heads turn

On Bishan Singh Bedi's 75th birthday, here is a look at his stellar career and some magical moments to savour.

Published : Sep 25, 2021 07:00 IST , MUMBAI

In a country where cricket is more than an emotion, Bishan Singh Bedi's contribution to the game has been exemplary — as a legendary spinner, a gritty captain, a selection committee member, and a no-nonsense manager. What's more, Bedi has never been one to mince his words.

Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar and S. Venkataraghavan were the architects of a revolution of sorts in India’s spin bowling. It's a legacy that endures. On Bedi's 75th birthday, here is a look at his stellar career and some magical moments to savour.


Lone fighter in Kolkata

In the fourth Test between India and Australia at Eden Gardens in December 1969, Bedi shone in a crushing loss even as the match witnessed the tragedy of six persons being killed in a showdown between the crowd and the police amid a frenzied scramble for tickets.

India suffered a 10-wicket defeat against Bill Lawry’s side, even as Bedi fought valiantly. The left-arm spinner took seven wickets in the first innings, conceding 98 runs. While Ian Chappell and Doug Walters made life miserable for the Indian bowlers, Bedi came up with the best bowling performance of his career.

A hand in India’s first ODI win

Bedi had a key role in India’s first ODI win. His miserly bowling figures of 12-8-6-1 restricted East Africa to 120 in a 1975 World Cup fixture. While Indian batters ensured they chased down the total without losing a wicket, the win was important for India, especially after India’s defeat in the first game, in which Sunil Gavaskar remained not out for 36. Bedi's spell remains one of the most economical in the history of the game.

Domestic cricket king


Until the 2018-19 domestic season, Bedi held a record for four decades. In the 1974-75 season, he scalped 64 wickets in a season, with an average of 8.53 and eight five-wicket hauls during the season. In the 2018-19 season, Bihar’s Ashutosh Aman, also a left-arm spinner, took 68 wickets in the Ranji Trophy to break the record.

Bedi also led Delhi to its first two Ranji Trophy titles — in 1978-79 and 1979-80. The team was also runner-up twice under him. Incidentally, the four finals came in a span of five years.


A man of principles

India’s tour of Pakistan in 1978-79 was marred by controversy. With Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad taking the Indian spinners — Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Prasanna — to the cleaners, the host clinched the Test series 2-0.

But in the third ODI in Sahiwal, India captain Bedi chose to forfeit a match, which India could have won, because of ‘blatantly unfair’ umpiring. After restricting Pakistan to 205-7, India was in sight of a win. With 23 required off 18 deliveries, Sarfaraz Nawaz bowled four consecutive bouncers that went over the batsman's head. None of the deliveries was called a wide, leaving Bedi furious. He called his batsmen — Anshuman Gaekwad and Gundappa Viswanath — back and conceded the match. While the cricketing fraternity was divided over Bedi’s move, the India captain decided to stick to his principles.

County delight

Bedi was one of the most successful overseas players in the English County cricket circuit, too. He featured for Northamptonshire in 102 outings between 1972 and 1977. He bagged 434 wickets for the Northants, the most by an Indian in County cricket. Mesmerised by his performance, former England captain Mike Brearley wrote in the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, “Having watched the England players being mesmerised by him in India in 1972/73, and written about them not using their feet, the author batted at Northampton for Middlesex a few months later. The outcome: Brearley st Sharp b Bedi 18 (though 57 in the second innings!). Of his 1,560 first-class wickets, he took 434 in six seasons for Northamptonshire, and 266 in 67 Tests for India.”

The Australian summer

In the Australian summer of 1977-78, the Indian cricket team - under the leadership of Bedi - displayed one of its grittiest performances in the five-match Test series. Even though the results were 3-2 in favour of the Bob Simpson-led home team, Bedi’s put on a mighty fight, clinching wins in the third and fourth Tests — in Melbourne and Sydney. Not just as a captain, Bedi also toyed with the Australian batting line-up with his bowling. Chandrasekhar and Prasanna, too, ably supported him to help India win the two games. Many, in the cricket circuit, consider the tour as a game-changing moment for Indian cricket.

The coach


Bedi was the Indian national team’s first professional head coach in 1990 and after taking charge, he made it clear that fitness would be the key. His appointment ended the old practice of managers changing frequently for tours. While Bedi initially got along well with captain Mohammed Azharuddin and other players, his tenure was a tumultuous one. While he lashed out at players for poor show overseas, his outspoken attitude did not go down well with the players and the stint was short-lived. After quitting the Indian team role, Bedi coached quite a few state teams and guided Punjab to its only Ranji Trophy win in the 1992-93 season. Led by Gursharan Singh, Punjab defeated Maharashtra by 120 runs in the final in Ludhiana and scripted history. 

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