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Bishen Singh Bedi, 60

September 25, 2006

One of cricket's greatest players turns 60 today, September 25. salutes the legend with an exclusive extract from a new book The Indian Masters

Of the Indians who have played county cricket since the easing of the qualification rules in 1968, only Farokh Engineer has made a greater impact than the slow left-arm bowler from Amritsar in the Punjab, Bishan Singh Bedi.

For a start there was the simple fact of his appearance. His patka -- usually light blue or pink - and his beard made him an instantly recognizable figure and lent an aura of genuine exoticism to the county grounds of the mid-1970s.

He was a popular figure with the crowds, exuding an air (perhaps slightly misleading) of benign joviality, and also of a refreshing generosity of spirit as he clapped batsmen who dispatched his deliveries to the boundary.

When David Hughes of Lancashire hit him for 26 in an over in the Gillette Cup final of 1976, each of the 3 sixes was politely applauded by an apparently satisfied bowler. Then there was his seemingly leisurely action, fit to beguile even the most partial observer.

Lastly, he was consistently successful. In six seasons with Northamptonshire he took 434 wickets at 20.89 apiece, securing over 100 wickets in Championship matches alone in 1973 when the county finished third in the table.

Bedi was close to being at the height of his powers when he joined the country in 1972. India's Test team was in the middle of a period when, under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar, they could justifiably be regarded as unofficial world champions.

Their position of dominance was largely attributable to the performances of a remarkable quarter of spin bowlers: Bedi himself; the googly and top-spin bowler Bhagwat Chandrasekhar; and the two off-spinners, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan.

Also read: 'If I was in Kapil's place, I would have kicked the job'

Photograph: Hamish Blair/Allsport

Excerpted with the publishers' permission from The Indian Masters by Bill Ricquier published by Roli Books Ltd India

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