Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A tribute to Chandra....and the famed spin quartet

Rediff has a nice tribute to the great Indian legspinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar.

All of us "children of the 80's" never saw the famed spin quartet play. The best spinners we have seen in our times (with the exception of the glorious Mr. Kumble and the unpredictable Harbhajan Singh) were Venkatapathy Raju and maybe Rajesh Chauhan, neither of whom come anywhere close to Bedi/Chandra/Pras/Venkat.

With all due respect to Bedi, I think he's been a loose cannon ever since he left the scene. One of the first instances when I heard of him (and his antics) was when he suggested that the Indian team be thrown in the sea off New Zealand, after India lost a test match to New Zealand in the 1989-90 series there. Since then, from time to time, he has piped up with his wisecracks off and on, more often than not to gain some attention! But he was sheer magic as a spinner! Having seen clips of him bowling (largely thanks to "Sunil Gavaskar presents" back in the 80's, and ESPN-Star in the 90s), I just feel his bowling was (to use a cliched expression) like a hot knife thru butter! All said and done, quite a maverick.

Chandra has the most heroic story among the 4. Overcoming polio, he went on to become one of the world's best spinners of his era. He was one of the heros behind India's triumph in the 1971 series in England under Wadekar. I suspect Kumble modeled himself on Chandra, and hence the long run up and medium-pace style bowling! He also played an important role in India's first win in a Test in Oz-land, when he won the Melbourne Test for us in 1978.

Pras was again a classical right-arm off-breaker. He flighted the ball a lot more than Bedi, enticing the batsman into a false shot. Again, from whatever little I have seen of his playing days, his bowling was (to use a cliched expression, AGAIN) like "poetry in action"!

Venkat ofcourse has been more than visible on our TV screens, as an umpire of international repute. In his heydays, he could hold his own against the other three members of the quartet, although he was the least successful among the four of them. More often than not, he was in close competition with the other 3 for a slot in the team - the 4 of them played in the same Test just ONCE; which is unbelievable. He was the only one who played well into the 80's, retiring from the international game in 1983.

The Rajus, Hirwanis and Chauhans arent a patch on these four legends. I think Raju was just not effective enough, while success went to Hirwani's head after all the adulation surrounding his 16-wkt hall against the Windies had died down. Chauhan ofcourse could pack a fairly good punch with his bat (I cannot forget the sixes he hit vs. England at the Wankhede in the 1992-93 series, as well as the one over square leg vs. Saqlain Mushtaq at Karachi)

Sometimes I wonder if this country will ever have a spinner on the lines of Bedi/Chandra/Pras and Venkat.

So that's that....

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