Like Jadeja, Bedi captured hearts and wickets

Almost similar in temperament, their Test stats are also nearly similar, making the Jadeja-Bedi comparison quite fascinating

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Watching left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja bowl in the first Test at Nagpur against Australia last week reminded me of another Indian left arm spinner, Bishan Singh Bedi.

Being likeable characters, the spectators loved them both; even opponents. We have of late witnessed Jadeja’s on-field antics, swinging his bat like a musketeer when reaching his Test fifty.

A few decades ago, the turbaned and bearded Bedi was just as popular, especially in Australia in 1977-78.

And thus was prompted this Jadeja-Bedi comparison.

Bedi had only to touch a ball on the field and the Aussie crowd would chant “Baidi, Baidi”. He was the inspiration behind most of India’s breakthroughs and fight-backs in the first Test in Brisbane in December 1977. He took a wicket off the first ball he bowled in this Test and very nearly led his team to victory as a batsman (scoring an unbeaten 26 at number 10) in the final heart-stopping hour.

“Baidi” had started weaving his left-arm spin magic on the opening day of the Brisbane Test by taking 5 for 55 as the Aussies were bowled out for 166. Peter Toohey was the only one to read his spin by scoring 82. Just as Jadeja captured 5 for 47 last week in the Nagpur Test, Marnus Labuschagne being the only one to play his spin scoring 49.

(Source: DNA)

India carried the winning momentum in the 1978 Sydney Test, Bedi and BS Chandrasekhar spinning out Australia for a paltry score of 131. It was a brilliant and fascinating series which revived Test cricket just as Richie Benaud’s and Frank Worrell’s gladiators had achieved 17 years earlier in the spellbinding 1960-61 series down under.

I still vividly remember the pulsating 1977-78 series today, almost 46 years later.

According to H Natarajan in CricInfo, “The purity and perfection of Bedi’s art was a connoisseur’s dream. He was stealthy, silent and deadly; a master of deception who conjured variations in flight, loop, spin and pace without any perceptible change in action. He bowled with a big heart too, challenging the batsman to hit over the top by giving the ball plenty of air, and was a consistent wicket-taker for most of his career… He was forthright and outspoken throughout his playing career, and inevitably courted controversies.”

These similarities between the two master Indian left arm spinners aside, below are their Test statistics.

Bedi took 266 wickets at an average of 28.71 in 67 Tests. He took 5 wickets in an innings 14 times and 10 wickets in a Test once. His best bowling in a Test innings was 7 for 98 and best in a Test was 10 for 194.

(Source: The Tribune)

As at today, Jadeja has captured 249 wickets at 24.34 in 61 Tests. He has grabbed 5 wickets in an innings 11 times and 10 wickets in a Test once. His best bowling in a Test innings is 7 for 48 and best in one Test is 10 for 154.

Almost similar in temperament, their Test stats are also nearly similar, making the Jadeja-Bedi comparison quite fascinating.

Meeting Bishan Singh Bedi

At a personal level, I had two pleasant encounters with Bishan. When he toured Australia in 1971-72 under the leadership of the legendary Garry Sobers with the Best of World team, my wife and I had invited Bedi and team mates Sunil Gavaskar and Farokh Engineer to our house for lunch. All three were so friendly, it was as if we had known each other for a long time.

Another unforgettable moment for me: I was watching the Indian cricket team at net practice at the Sydney Cricket Ground a day before their match against NSW in November 1977. To my utter surprise, Bedi threw the ball at me saying: “Bowl, Kersi.”

“What, me bowl to Test cricketers?” I asked in shock.

“Yes, bowl, Kersi,” he repeated.

Bowling my slow and inaccurate half volleys to Test batsmen Ashok Mankad and Surinder Amarnath was an experience I will never forget. To bowl alongside Bedi and ES Prasanna was an additional thrill.

Who knows, in near future I may have a chance to bowl (at net practice of course!) along with Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin! Miracles do happen.

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Kersi Meher-Homji
Kersi Meher-Homji
Kersi is a virologist by profession and a cricket writer and cricket statistician by hobby. He is an author of 17 cricket books and over 17,000 cricket and scientific articles.

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