Bishan Singh Bedi, the charismatic Indian cricketer renowned for his graceful spin bowling and candid views on the sport, passed away at the age of 77 on October 23, 2023. Bedi’s illustrious journey in the world of cricket spanned decades and left an unforgetable mark on the game. While many remember him for his exceptional contributions on the field and his time as the captain of the Indian cricket team, there are several lesser-known facets of his life and career that deserve recognition. In this article, we delve into the lesser-known stories of Bishan Singh Bedi’s cricketing legacy.
Debut: Trial By Fire
During this tranquil period of Indian cricket history, Bishan Singh Bedi embarked on his international career during a Test match against the West Indies in Calcutta in 1966-67. However, this Test is not recalled for the 20-year-old spinner’s performance; unfortunately, his team endured an innings defeat.
For Bedi, it was literally initiation by fire. The crowd had set the stadium ablaze on the second day of the Test after some police action. It required significant persuasion to convince the West Indies team to continue playing until the match’s conclusion.
Ranji Trophy Legacy
More than any other Indian cricketer, Bedi managed to take a whopping 1560 wickets in his illustrious first-class career.
Bishan Singh Bedi’s incredible 1974/75 season remains unchallenged to this day, with no bowler surpassing his 64 wickets in a single season. As a key member of India’s spin quartet, Bedi excelled, averaging 8.53 and achieving eight five-wicket hauls during that memorable season. He’s one of the select few to claim 50 or more wickets in a season.
Throughout the tournament’s history, the title of all-time highest wicket-taker changed hands only six times. Bedi held this record for a staggering 42 years, marking the longest reign in the tournament’s history.
The 50-Over Format
Despite playing just 10 ODI matches, Bedi will always be remembered for leading India to their first win in the 50-over format. This win came on July 13, 1974, against England at Headingley, Leeds. In that match, India successfully chased down a target of 265 runs, winning by 4 wickets.
Bedi etched his name in history with stunning figures of 12-8-6-1 when India dismissed East Africa for a mere 120 during the 1975 World Cup.
Bedi holds a world record that often goes unnoticed. In a 60-over One Day International (ODI) match, he delivered the most economical bowling figures among bowlers who completed their quota of overs. During the 1975 World Cup, he achieved the remarkable figures of 12-8-6-1, showcasing his mastery of spin bowling.
The Forfeited ODI
In a rare and bold move, Bishan Singh Bedi decided to forfeit an ODI match between India and Pakistan. The reason was the excessive use of bouncers by the opposition bowlers. He made this decision when India required just 23 runs from 14 balls and still had eight wickets in hand, demonstrating his principles and commitment to fair play.
Beyond his playing days, Bedi took on the role of coaching the Indian cricket team briefly in 1990. He holds the distinction of being the first full-time coach in the history of Indian cricket. His expertise and insights contributed to the development of the sport in the country.
The Muralitharan Critique
Bedi, a relentless critic of Muralitharan, repeatedly referred to him as a “chucker.” He garnered support from two other Indian spinners, Erapalli Prasanna and Maninder Singh, who claimed that the ICC had granted Muralitharan a license to flex his arm.
Despite his reputation as a specialist bowler, Bedi managed to leave his mark with the bat as well. He scored a half-century in Test cricket, with his highest score being an unbeaten 50 against New Zealand. His versatility as a cricketer shone through his ability to contribute with the bat when needed.
The Vaseline Affair
During England’s tour of India in 1976-77, Bedi was involved in a unique incident when he accused English fast bowler John Lever of using Vaseline to illegally polish the ball in a Test match in Chennai. Lever had been wearing Vaseline strips on his forehead to prevent sweat from dripping into his eyes, but Bedi’s suspicions led to an investigation. In the end, Lever was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Maiden Over Maestro
In the realm of Test cricket, Bedi’s prowess was not limited to wickets alone. He stands second only to former West Indies cricketer Lance Gibbs when it comes to maiden overs. Bedi averaged an impressive 16.35 maiden overs per Test, demonstrating his control and ability to build pressure on the opposition.
Best Bowling Figures
Bedi’s best match figures in Test cricket were 10/194 against Australia at Perth in the 1978/79 season. Even today, the pitch in Perth is primarily known for favoring pace bowlers, making Bedi’s performance on that wicket truly remarkable.
Bishan Singh Bedi’s cricketing legacy is a captivating tale of unmatched achievements and principled actions. From his fiery debut, where he endured the heat of the game, to his enduring records in the Ranji Trophy, Bedi’s journey was one of unwavering commitment to cricket. His unparalleled economy in ODIs and the bold decision to forfeit a match for the sake of fair play demonstrate the depth of his principles. Bedi’s coaching role and his critique of bowling actions added a layer of knowledge to his contributions. His versatility, whether with the bat or his skills in maiden overs, showcased his multifaceted talent. His best match figures in Test cricket on a pacer-friendly wicket, remains deep-rooted in cricket’s history. Beyond records and statistics, Bishan Singh Bedi is a legendary figure in the annals of cricket, leaving behind a rich tapestry of lesser-known stories that define his remarkable cricketing journey.