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Vol. XXXI No. 13, October 16-31, 2021

When Bedi spun his web at Chepauk

by Partab Ramchand

Bishen Singh Bedi in action.

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.

England Captain Tony Greig, the
200th victim of Bedi.

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.

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  1. calicut krishnan subramaniam says:

    Chepauk and marker Muthu go hand in glove. When I was attending Dr. Subramaniam nets there, Muthu was a helpful man encouraging me to grow from a school boy to a man with his friendly pep talks. The tall figure gave me hopes and aspirations to become a seasoned cricketer. The coaching in Chepauk helped me to become a seasoned all rounder. My fielding improved a lot under the watchful eyes of Clubwalla, Ramprakash and Venkatraghavan. I did make a successful swipe at VV Kumar’s leg spin in the nets but the bowler left the scene of action as he felt I should have just tackled his spin with a straight spin and I acknowldge it as a good delivery instead of sweeping. Muthu used to give both old and new MCA balls for my practice in Tondiarpet’s famous “Standard Cricket Club”. Muthu made a mark in providing the base and helped many upcoming cricketers like me. Once he gave me N. Ram’s cricket bat and that made me to become a sound opener and knocked the doors of Madras University selection with high credentials. In later years, I represented Sir Theagaraya Recreation Club in the IV Division League and carried my bat throughout a completed innings score 23 not out in a score of 63 all out, a record still in 4th division in MCA league. Again, Muthu magnanimous in providing me with a cricket shoes used by Derek Underwood of England and with that I could claim 6 for and 5 for 9 for my school and got a dream spell of 7 for 28 against Madras Engineering College Guindy which rocked the base of much fancied side with a 3 wickets haul in my first over. In all, Muthu, the marker became a mentor for me in my cricketing days.

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