Bishan Singh Bedi was part of the spin quartet that led India’s bowling attack through the 1960s and 70s, alongside Prasanna, Venkataraghavan and Chandrasekhar
Former India skipper Bishan Singh Bedi was a bold voice in Indian cricket known as much for impetuous commentary as his stellar left-arm spin. Bedi, who died aged 77 on Monday, claimed 266 wickets in 67 Tests, leading the team on 22 occasions after succeeding Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi as captain. He was the most prolific of the spin quartet at the forefront of India’s bowling attack through the 1960s and 70s, alongside Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Bhagwath Chandrasekhar.
His younger peers revered him as a grand statesman of the sport, never shy on offering trenchant opinions on issues plaguing the game, or backing other cricketers. “Critics would call Bishan a rebel. Wrong. To me, he was a cricketer who knew his rights well,” former captain Kapil Dev wrote in a book on Bedi. “He stood up for the cricketers, fighting for better match fees, travel facilities and accommodation… (He) made Indian cricket immensely proud.”
But he could also be harsh in his pronouncements, and during his short stint as India coach he reportedly threatened to dump the team in the Pacific Ocean while returning from a humiliating loss to Australia in 1990. He said the comment had been misreported and insisted he would not have stopped any player who wanted to jump into the sea out of shame.
During England’s tour of India in 1976-77, Bedi accused bowler John Lever of using petroleum jelly to polish the ball illegally, a charge later dismissed. He was also the first captain to concede an international match in 1978, during a 50-over clash with Pakistan, when umpires declined to call a wide after four successive bouncers by Sarfraz Nawaz.
After his playing career ended, Bedi’s year-long stint as India coach earned him praise for his tutelage from the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, who was in his teens and just beginning his international career. “I had the privilege of facing him in the nets… and I had to be at my absolute best while facing him,” Tendulkar said.
Bedi was born in Amritsar, the youngest of 13 children. He is survived by two sons and two daughters.