Bishan Singh Bedi runs a mutual admiration club with Sunil Gavaskar . He named his first born Gavasinder Singh ,while the latter often refers to him as the greatest slow left arm bowler . This shields Bedi from some warranted criticism over his twin moments of shame as the captain of the Indian cricket team. Within a small period of three years and across two continents, Bedi displayed shocking lack of understanding of rules and the historical context of the sport .He allowed his outrage (and fear ) against bouncers to stretch too far and the resultant decisions he took exposed Indian cricket to abiding humiliation . The Kingston Declarations can still somehow be explained away by the general massacre that followed , absent hurts which show up on scorecards and fear instilled deep among batsmen for the next decade and a half . But his rather petulant call to concede Sahiwal ODI against Paksitan in 1978 must find mention on his CV .
Is it just Bedi’s cross to bear? Or are there other players whose conducts must also come under scrutiny?
The two matches in question are the fourth and final Test played between India and West Indies at Kingston (Jamaica) in April 1976, and the third and final ODI played between India and Pakistan at Sahiwal in November 1978. Both were series deciders, as teams stood levelled at 1-1 .
At Kingston, India batted first and declared at 6/306 with two batsmen getting retired hurt . Anshuman Gaekwad, during his knock of 81 runs, was hit over his left ear and spent two nights in a hospital. Brijesh Patel also retired hurt after getting stitches when he was hit over his mouth during his innings of 14 runs . Bedi and Chandrashekhar chose not to bat for fear of getting injured . The captain justified this pusillanimity by arguing who would have bowled had both the premier bowlers been struck by the fearsome pace foursome of Holding ,Holder, Julian and Davis. In what can be described as a moment of national surrender ,India finished (did not officially declare but showed that five batsmen were not in a position to bat ) their second innings at 97/5 ,and set a modest target of 13 runs. Remember , this was the last test of the series,and a decider , yet Bedi and Chandra chose to be ‘absent hurt’ rather than risk their precious lives. Both Gaekwad and Brijesh Patel did not come out to bat ,as did Gundappa Vishwanath who claimed to have fractured (and dislocated) his finger as he was caught behind in his first innings . Bedi and Chandra did try to put some spin on their meek capitulation, saying both had hurt their arms while fielding and were not in a position to bat. This tame surrender before the Windies pace battery,the deceptive bounce on the wicket notwithstanding, was widely mocked . All 17 members of the Indian touring party ,as well as the substitute fielder Surinder Amarnath who had to be hospitalised for removal of his appendix ,made atleast one trip to hospital during this match. This match must be referred to as Bedi’s Test to properly acknowledge his role.
This ODI marked the debut of Bharat Reddy ,as well as of the Zafar Ali Stadium (also its last ). Pakistan batted first in this decider, and on a flat pitch with deceptive green outfield ,scored a competitive 205 in the alloted 40 overs. Asif Iqbal top scored with 62 off 72 balls and Majid Khan got 37 off 55. In their hauls of 8 overs each,Kapil Dev gave away 49 runs for 2 wickets ,while Bedi squandered away 44 runs . In reply, India steadily reached 2/183 in 37 overs ,thanks to Chetan Chauhan’s 28 and Surender Amarnath’s 62 runs off 75 balls. 23 runs off 18 balls seemed quite achievable especially with Anshuman Gaekwad batting on 78 off 115 ,and Vishwanath on 8, and Mohinder Amarnath ,Kapil , Yashpal and Ghavri still to bat.
It was then that Sarfaraz Nawaz bowled four consecutive bouncers , out of reach of a six-feet tall Anshuman and into the hands of wicketkeeper Wasim Bari. Umpires Javed Akthar and Khizhr Hayat remained unperturbed and did not signal any wides . It was then that Bedi felt enough was enough and decided to recall Indian batsmen to the dressing room . Despite being coaxed and cajoled by authorities and even the Pakistani captain Mushtaq Mohammad, Bedi didn’t send Anshumaan and Vishy back and chose to concede the match . Later Bedi also alleged that Sarfaraz and Javed Miandad had resorted to ceaseless verbal abuse , as if that mattered . The match (Bedi’s ODI it must be called ) was awarded to Pakistan,who won the series 2-1.
Were there strict rules in that era governing bouncers ? Were the non-neutral Umpires obliged to rule those deliveries as wides ? Was it illegitimate on the part of the Windies bowlers or Sarfaraz to bowl short-pitched deliveries as they did ? The answer, prima facie, seems No .
In that nay lie the roots of our humiliation.
What is worse is that we stayed back in Pakistan to play one more Test left in that eventful series (which we lost).
It must be noted that Anshuman Gaekwad and Vishwanath were both in the middle at Sahiwal when things came to pass . Both batsmen had also played an important role in the fateful Kingston Test. Anshuman and Vishy both had sustained injuries in the first innings at Kingston and became ‘absent hurt’ in the second . Somehow things don’t add up. Those shameful decsions could not have been taken by one man alone. The top batsmen , in the thick of action, must have exercised some influence upon him . The instinct for self- preservation exposed our softness to the world. Let alone properly investigating Gaekwad’s and Vishy’s role in the saga of Sahiwal surrender , even Bedi has escaped most of the blame for his twin tankings.
BCCI knows when and what to brush under their carpet. Perhaps that explains India’s newfound status as Cricket’s Only Superpower.
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#gundappavishwanath #bouncers #walkout #sunilgavaskar