PARTAB RAMCHAND | 24 SEPTEMBER, 2019
When Bedi and Prasanna Spun Out the Kiwis
Down Memory Lane
To cricket fans of this generation The Fab Four stands for Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. But to cricket followers of half a century ago The Fab Four were Bishen Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkatraghavan. The famed Indian spin quartet wove webs around the best of batsmen and tested their nerves with the highest form of the art and craft of spin bowling.
Ian Chappell a fine player of spin bowling reckoned that the Australian tour of India in 1969-70 was his ultimate test as far as this mode of bowling was concerned. He was of the view that while the bpdy was working overtime in dealing with the fiery thunderbolts sent down by pacemen the brain was forced to work overtime in facing the Indian spin attack, such was the infinite variety and high level of skill and accuracy that they possessed.
The era of the quartet remains the apotheosis of the Indian spin bowling tradition. They shaped notable triumphs at home and more importantly away despite bowling under tremendous pressure. During their time the Indian new ball attack was a joke and a farce and the batting extremely brittle. Everything really depended on them and quite often they were forced to defend ridiculously low targets and this they frequently did successfully.
One such example took place exactly 50 years ago in the first Test against New Zealand at Bombay. In this match only two of the quartet Bedi and Prasanna played. India batting first were dismissed for 156 with Ajit Wadekar (49) being the top scorer. New Zealand replied with 229 with Bevan Congdon being the chief contributor with 78 and as expected Bedi and Prasanna bore the brunt of the attack. Bedi bowled 37 overs and was rewarded with two for 51 while Prasanna sent down 46.3 opvers and took four for 97. In arrears by 73 runs India fought hard in their second innings to get 260. Wadekar again came up with a valuable contribution (40) but the highlight was a sterling innings of 67 by skipper MAK Pataudi.
This meant that New Zealand had to make only 188 for victory with more than a day left. The odds favoured the Kiwis to register their first victory in India particularly since the Indian attack was virtually a two man show in Bedi and Prasanna. But the spin duo rose magnificently to their responsibilities and bowled out New Zealand for 127 to give India an unexpedted 60-run victory. Out of the 69.3 overs bowled during the New Zealand innings Bedi and Prasanna sent down 63.5 and shared all ten wickets. While Prasanna took four for 74 off 33 overs Bedi took six for 42 off 30.5 overs. Only skipper Graham Dowling with an unbeaten 36 offered a semblance of resistance but the the rest of the batsmen had no clue to the mesmeric bowling of the spin duo.
It was a remarkable performance particularly as there was neither Chandrasekhar nor Venkatraghavan to lend a helping hand. But they all joined hands to script quite a few similarly notable and unexpected triumphs in the seventies.
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