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Bishen Singh Bedi, 60

September 26, 2006

One of cricket's greatest players turned 60 September 25. continues its tribute to the legend with an exclusive extract from a new book The Indian Masters:

Bedi finished with more Test wickets than Chandrasekhar, Prasanna or Venkat (266 at 28.71), but he bowled far more overs to get them. While he was the most economical of the four, his strike rate -- a perfectly respectable 80.3 -- was bettered by both Chandrasekhar and Prasanna.

That is not to say, however, that Bedi was a negative bowler. On the contrary, he was always 'at' the batsman, planning and probing. Tony Lewis wrote of his 'fiery aggression'. But Bedi, although a consistent wicket-taker throughout his career, did not often run through a side in the way that Chandrasekhar and Prasanna, when everything went right, could do.

Chandrasekhar was really a one-off: a sort of Kumble with chutzpah. Prasanna was an orthodox off-spinner, but with the classic loop and sharp spin that is rarely -- if ever -- seen today. Bedi was his ideal partner, but was more often than not in a supporting role, particularly in the early days under Pataudi (who favoured Prasanna and gave him confidence).

In fact, Bedi was far from being a negative bowler but he was perhaps more prepared to wait, to be patient. He was also extremely accurate and, except when conditions really were in the batsmen's favour, very difficult to get away.

Bedi always maintained that he did not mind being hit: indeed it encouraged him if a batsman went after him (hence his endearing practice referred to earlier, of applauding a successful assailant). Still, you can have too much of a good thing and there is all the difference in the world between an occasional boundary and a sustained assault, and the evidence suggests that Bedi did not relish the latter.

Photograph: Bristol Photo

Image: Bishen Singh Bedi in his younger days. In his prime, Bedi was rated the best left-arm spinner in the world and is stil considered the best India has ever produced.

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