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BCCI didn’t even know it was the 500th Test: Bishen Singh Bedi

Bishen Singh Bedi
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 11: Former Indian cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi. (Photo by Prabhas Roy/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

India’s left-arm spinner Bishen Singh Bedi, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Sunday (September 25), was one of the men strangely missing from the celebration party which was present on the eve of India’s 500th Test at Kanpur. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) failed to invite Bedi but the former skipper is absolutely cool about it.

“They (BCCI) didn’t even know it was the 500th Test. If they did, the Test would not have been played in Kanpur. They would have chosen Mumbai or Bangalore or Kolkata. Can you imagine that they didn’t even invite Vishy or Nari Contractor either?”

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“It was very strange alright. Could be anything – oversight, maybe? Or deliberate – I don’t know. Oh, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. It’s part of the game. No one can deny my involvement with Indian cricket, can they?”

He, however, does admit that it would have been a great way for him to only to catch up with old friends.

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One way BCCI tried to make the 500th test memorable was by making the fans vote for their ‘Dream XI’ featuring past greats. Wisden India also published its Dream Xi. Speaking about it, Bedi took a more critical view on the XI and his own modification in it. Bedi features at No. 11 and is one of two frontline spinners along with Anil Kumble in the XI.

“I don’t agree with it at all. I wouldn’t have (Virender) Sehwag open with Sunil Gavaskar. Sunil, yes, we have had our differences, but he was outstanding. I would have Vijay Merchant with Sunil.”

“Vijay Merchant has to be in the greatest Indian Test XI. Sehwag was a product of one-day cricket. He did great things, but Merchant … he scored over 4000 runs on two tours of England when it was wet. I had a long discussion with Mr (Vijay) Manjrekar, just before he died, and I said I hadn’t seen a more organised bat than Gavaskar. He said he didn’t agree. ‘Did you see Vijay Merchant?’ he asked me. Mr Manjrekar said Sunil didn’t come anywhere near Merchant.”

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“Syed Kirmani in place of (MS) Dhoni. Tiger Pataudi in place of (VVS) Laxman, and as captain. No doubt about it. And Pras (Erapalli Prasanna), Pras and Vinoo Mankad. Not Bishan Bedi.”

When asked about Subhash Gupte, the legendary leg-spinner whim Gary Sobers rated better that Shane Warne, Bedi said that he was also a great bowler but Chandra was more incredible.

“Oh yes, that’s another one. Gupte was way ahead of any leggie I have heard of. I didn’t see him, but I heard on the radio. He could turn it on a glass table, Garry said. But I didn’t see him. But I saw Chandra (BS Chandrasekhar) all right – the most incredible bowler, the greatest match-winner. A captain’s delight.”

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“Sehwag was a law unto himself. You want players in the classical mould: Merchant, Gavaskar, Dravid, Tendulkar … Viswanath – what a batsman. But Vishy and Sehwag won’t be in my XI. Don’t get me wrong – I would like to see classical batsmen.”

“That’s where hand-eye coordination falls short for me. So it’s my misfortune that I can’t include Sehwag. He is a remarkable team man and a great entertainer. So commiserations to Sehwag, and to Vishy too. And I don’t know how to include Chandra either. Who do we leave out?”

Either Kumble or Prasanna or Mankad, I guess. “No, then we can’t fit Chandra in. Vinoo Mankad, he has to be there. I can’t be there. Vinoo Mankad was the greatest allrounder. He has to be there.”

Bedi says that Vinoo was an all-round performer and gave more roption while he was just a bowler.  “You have Vinoo Mankad bowling left-arm spin and batting anywhere you want him to, why do you need me?”

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“I was a very poor athlete. You know that. Everyone knows that. Not kidding. Forget modern cricket – even then, that was my biggest handicap. I had to do something extraordinary with the ball to stay in the side. Chandra, Pras … they were way ahead of me. And Mankad, before. Anil, after my time.”

“A lot of our giants prostrate in front of the administrators. I couldn’t be one of them. It could be a weakness also. But it was built into me. I can’t change.”

Bedi also terms himself as the in the famous Indian spin quartet. He reasons that while the rest of the spin partners were excellent wicket takers, he had to produce something extraordinary out of the box to be successful.

“They were brilliant. All great intellectuals of the game. All of them were highly educated too – I was the third-class graduate. The odd one out. Just a cog in the wheel. We were very proud of each other. Never a moment of jealousy … if one of us got five (wickets), the others celebrated. We used to discuss a lot. Even today, if I have a doubt about something, I will call Pras.

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“I used to stand close to the stumps in the nets and listen to the ball whirring when it left Pras’s hand. Chandra also. Lovely people. No showmanship. Absolute darlings.”

“My life still revolves around cricket,” he says. “I still train kids, we have summer and winter camps. I read a lot of cricket and I see a lot of cricket. I am not a doctor or lawyer or anything. I am a cricketer. I don’t know anything else.”

“The cricketing philosopher in me is forever grateful to the grand willow game for all my peace and everything close to it.”

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