Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, who was known for being part of a famous spin quartet, has died at the age of 77, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) says in a statement.
Bedi claimed 266 wickets in 67 Tests, leading the team on 22 occasions after succeeding Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi as captain.
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He also played 10 one-day internationals, taking seven wickets.
Indian Sports Minister Anurag Thakur also confirmed Bedi’s death on Monday to local media, saying: “The former captain of the Indian cricket team Bishan Singh Bedi is no more. This is a huge loss for cricket.”
The BCCI mourns the sad demise of former India Test Captain and legendary spinner, Bishan Singh Bedi.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and fans in these tough times.
May his soul rest in peace 🙏 pic.twitter.com/oYdJU0cBCV
— BCCI (@BCCI) October 23, 2023
Bedi, leg spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and off spinners Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Erapalli Prasanna were regarded as India’s most potent bowling force, often operating together on slow, turning wickets at home in the 1960s and ’70s.
Bedi was a bold and sometimes rash voice in Indian cricket, known as much for impetuous commentary on other players as his stellar left-arm spin.
‘Sardar of Spin’
Several cricketers from India and around the world have paid tributes to the spin wizard.
Former India women’s captain Mithali Raj called Bedi the “Sardar of Spin” and said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that he is one of “the best to have represented India”.
The 'Sardar of Spin' is no more. Saddened by the news of Shri Bishan Singh Bedi ji passing away. He'll always be among the best bowlers to have represented India. My condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/guGRBynwTR
— Mithali Raj (@M_Raj03) October 23, 2023
Former West Indian fast bowler Ian Bishop said many of his predecessors “spoke of his guile and skill as a bowler and competitor in reverential tones”.
Messages of condolences also poured in from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and current India cricketers.
Growing up our lives are moulded by the spirit, the gusto and sheer grace of people who we see and experience around us. Mr. #BishanSinghBedi was one of them. May God bless his soul & thank u Sir for teaching us so much about sports & life. You will be missed immensely. RIP
— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) October 23, 2023
‘Stood up for cricketers’
Bedi’s younger peers revered him as a grand statesman of the sport who was never shy on offering trenchant opinions on issues plaguing the game or backing other cricketers.
“Critics would call Bishan a rebel. Wrong. To me, he was a cricketer who knew his rights well,” former captain Kapil Dev wrote in a book on Bedi.
“He stood up for the cricketers, fighting for better match fees, travel facilities and accommodation. … [He] made Indian cricket immensely proud.”
He could also be harsh in his pronouncements, and during his short stint as India’s coach, he reportedly threatened to dump the team in the Pacific Ocean while returning from a humiliating loss to Australia in 1990.
He said the comment had been misreported and insisted he would not have stopped any player who wanted to jump into the sea out of shame.
During England’s tour of India in 1976 and 1977, Bedi accused bowler John Lever of using petroleum jelly to polish the ball illegally – a charge later dismissed.
He was also the first captain to concede an international match in 1978 during a 50-over clash with Pakistan when umpires declined to call a wide after four successive bouncers by Sarfraz Nawaz.
Bedi was born in Amritsar, the spiritual home of his Sikh faith, and was the youngest of 13 children.
After his playing career ended, Bedi’s year-long stint as India’s coach earned him praise for his tutelage from the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, who was in his teens and just beginning his international career.
“I had the privilege of facing him in the nets, … and I had to be at my absolute best while facing him,” Tendulkar said.
But Bedi’s short time at the helm of state team Jammu and Kashmir was marred by acrimony with players accusing him of bias.
He is survived by two sons and two daughters – a pair each from his two marriages.