Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXI No. 13, October 16-31, 2021
On the occasion of his 75th birthday on September 25 it is worth recalling that one of Bishen Singh Bedi’s favourite venues was Chepauk. Like his three other famed contemporaries S. Venkatraghavan, Erapalli Prasanna and B.S. Chandrasekhar, Bedi too spun his web around international batsmen in Tests at the MA Chidambaram stadium and finished with 31 wickets. In fact he figured in most Tests – six – at this ground as compared to Prasanna and Chandrasehar who each played five and Venkat who played four.
It was as an unassuming 20-year-old lad playing in only his second Test – he had made his debut in the previous game at Calcutta – that Bedi played his first match at Chepauk in January 1967. West Indies were then the leading side in the world and they had some of the finest stroke players in the game in Conrad Hunte, Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Seymour Nurse, Clive Lloyd and the incomparable Gary Sobers. While they were impatient to play their strokes here was this youngster who bowled slow left arm spinners with the ball seemingly taking an eternity to reach the batsmen. He took only one wicket in the first innings but was in his element in the second taking four for 81 and having the famed batting line-up in all sorts of trouble as they attempted to get 322 in 295 minutes for victory. He took the wickets of opener Robin Bynoe, Kanhai, Nurse and Lloyd and along with Prasanna seemed to be bowling India to a famous victory. But they were thwarted by Sobers and Charlie Griffith – the latter playing more with his pad than with the bat – and West Indies closed at 270 for seven.
Three years later Bedi along with Prasanna was the leading Indian spin bowler and in the first innings he kept the strong Australian batting line-up – Bill Lawry, Keith Stackpole, Ian Chappell, Doug Walters, Paul Sheahan and Ian Redpath – on a leash even though he took only one wicket. Thereafter he was indisposed and his role was limited as India lost by 77 runs.
In the 70s Bedi figured prominently in three successive Indian victories at Chepauk. In January 1973 the England batsmen found it difficult to negotiate his classical deliveries and Bedi had match figures of six for 104 from 73 overs to help shape along with Prasanna and Chandra India’s four- wicket victory. This was the time when Bedi came on as early as the third over of the innings as India’s opening bowlers were Eknath Solkar and Sunil Gavaskar the first time around and Solkar and MAK Pataudi in the second. The Indian new ball pairing was pathetic putting that much more pressure on the spinners.
In January 1975 Bedi had match figures of six for 69 as India defeated West Indies by 100 runs where he again shared the spoils with Prasanna and Chandra. Bedi enjoyed his best game at Chepauk two years later against New Zealand. By now the Indian captain he had nine for 70 in the match outshining Chandra and Venkat as India won by 216 runs. But just a month and a half later during the same 1976-77 season he was presiding over a 200-run defeat at the hands of England. However he did attain an important personal landmark becoming the first Indian bowler to take 200 wickets in Test matches during the game with a match haul of four wickets. That the landmark victim was England captain Tony Greig was the icing on the cake.