Bishen Singh Bedi was born in Amritsar on 25th September 1946. He was inducted in the Northern Punjab team when he was just fourteen. He made his mark as a slow orthodox left arm spinner from this early age. He went on to become India’s greatest spinner. He played Ranji Trophy for Northern Punjab from 1961 to 1967. Then he played for Delhi between 1968 and 1981. He also played for the County of Northamptonshire between 1972 and 1977.
Bishen Singh Bedi played test cricket for India between 1966 and 1979. He made his test debut on 31st December 1966 against the West Indies. He played his last test against England on 30th August 1979. He made his one day debut against England on 13th July 1974 and played his last one day match against Sri Lanka on 16th June 1979. He played 67 tests during his career scoring 656 runs with a top score of 50 not out against New Zealand at Kanpur in 1976. He has taken 266 test wickets, taking more than five wickets in an innings fourteen times. He played ten one day matches and 370 first class matches with a total wicket haul of 1,560 wickets, taking five wickets or more in an innings for one hundred and six times, making him the greatest spinner to emerge from India. No bowler has reached his tally of 1,560 wickets in India. When he played for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy season of 1975, he has picked up a record sixty four wickets in a season.
Bishen Singh Bedi was part of the famous spin quartet. He used to lead them from the front. He was Captain for the Indian team in twenty two test matches. He is well known for wearing a colourful Sikh head knot gear known as `patka’. Like Lala Amarnath, he is recognised for his outspoken nature on cricket issues as well as his blunt views.
Bishen Singh Bedi’s bowling was known for his artistic style of delivery that was backed with beauty, grace and guile. He was an expert flighter of the ball, inviting the batsman to come down the crease and lift him. He was fully capable of either hurrying the ball or holding it back. His strategic variations in spin got him many wickets as batsmen found him difficult to play. He was able to bowl in all the three sessions, sometimes covering the full day with total control and rhythm. In fact, the pace bowlers would just complete the formalities of taking the shine away from the ball by bowling just about fourteen overs when Bedi would start the spin proceedings.
He was of great value to all the Indian captains before he took charge himself in 1976 taking over from Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. During the Australian tour of 1978, he picked up 31 wickets in that series that India lost marginally by 2-3. Bobby Simpson had come back from retirement to lead Australia to victory. Bedi’s best test bowling was 7/98 against Australia at Calcutta in 1970. Though Kumble took more wickets than him and even got ten wickets in an innings, he could not replace the artistry of Bishen Singh Bedi. Also, in Kumble’s days, India would be playing four times more number of tests than in the previous years when Bedi was in the team.
His first test victory as Captain was against the West Indies at Port of Spain in the 1976 series when India made a record 406 runs in the fourth innings to win that test. He also became the first Indian Captain to concede an international one day match in November 1978 against Pakistan at Sahiwal. India was requiring twenty three runs from two overs and Bedi recalled the batsmen from the crease and conceded the match in protest at the bowling of Sarfaraz Nawaz who bowled four bouncers in succession without a single ball being declared a wide by the umpires. It was not in good sporting spirit and Bedi drove the point home. It is another matter that India may not have scored those twenty three runs in the twelve balls remaining. He was a man of principles and played a gentleman’s game as cricket demanded.
He started a cricket academy and pointed out that it was necessary for the limbs to be supple for good spin bowling. Hence, he always washed his clothes with his own hands and recommended it as the best exercise for the fingers and shoulders. Bishen Singh Bedi, India’s greatest spinner, has accused one day cricket and small cricket grounds as the murderers of classical spin bowling in India. He refers to T20 cricket as a vulgar display by hooligans.