Divinity ordained that he be blessed with a “nice, clean bowling action”. Divinity that “coincided with Tiger Pataudi's leadership” ensured that Bishan Singh Bedi would play for India and end up as one of its finest spin bowlers of all time.
That was how the man himself described his classic bowling action and his Test baptism in Calcutta, under Pataudi, back in 1966-67against the West Indies, as he released his biography, written by journalist Suresh Menon, at the Kovalam Literary Festival at the India International Centre here on Thursday.
In ‘Bishan, Portrait of a Cricketer”, Menon brings to life one of the most colourful personalities of Indian cricket., but Bedi, as is his wont, described the attempt as “bringing out an Egyptian mummy alive”.
Expectedly the evening belonged to Bedi once Menon recalled his long association with the left-arm spinner; the latter's meticulousness in keeping personal records and what his contemporaries had to say about the bowler.
Bedi regaled the attentive audience with a few anecdotes, his opinion on the current state of Indian cricket, the emergence of the spin quartet in the late 60s and his unadulterated admiration for Tiger Pataudi, who passed away recently.
“I was not even in the 15 when I was taken in the team for the Calcutta Test” against the West Indies in 1966-67, Bedi recalled. He praised Pataudi's leadership and said the late Nawab always encouraged youngsters.
Bedi went on to play 67 Tests, capturing 266 wickets at an average of 28.71.
“You score a 100 or take five wickets; all you got from Tiger was a nod. There was no jumping around, no hugging during those days” Bedi said. in obvious reference to the wild celebrations that mark even the fall of a wicket nowadays.
He compared the present-day salaries of cricketers with the Rs. 250 per Test that the players received during those days. Once the Board even cut Rs. 50 from that since the match finished a day early!
“We won three series in a row and the fee was increased to Rs. 2000,” Bedi said and emphasised that he was happy that the players were currently getting a lot more than during his time.
He rated Garfield Sobers as the best batsman he had bowled to. “It was a delight to be punished by him.” He picked Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble as present-day role models in Indian cricket.
“I was fortunate to have played the game; just for the love of it,” Bedi said.