Bedi ought to be captain of spin ship

Clayton MurzelloParvez Rassol is not the only spinner in India or abroad who has benefited from Bishan Singh Bedi’s tips and placed the former India captain prominently on cricket’s altar. One remembers left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi indulging in thanksgiving after a heroic 10-6-6-5 performance against South Africa in the 1999 LG Cup at Nairobi.

And of course there was England’s Monty Panesar and Aussie Jason Krejza, who claimed an eight-wicket haul on Test debut in Nagpur 2008. Going by Rassol’s Day One utterances at Chennai where he is representing Board President’s XI against Australia, he is in awe of Bedi (who coached him at Jammu & Kashmir).

Former Indian spinner Bishen Singh Bedi (right) gives some pointers to Australian spinner Colin Miller during a three-day match between Board President’s XI and Australia at New Delhi’s Ferozshah Kotla ground in March 2001. Pic/Hamish Blair/ALLSPORT

I suspect Bedi likes him because Rassol has a clean action and bowls in short sleeves. Bedi just abhors the fact that slow bowlers have their arms covered in his opinion to avoid being caught for chucking. Bedi always has a strong view on anything remotely important. He can be very handy to journalists. At the same time, he can be very difficult to argue with. Just like I experienced recently when I wanted him to give me his Dream Mumbai Team. His view was, Mumbai never possessed a dream team because a lot of their Ranji triumphs came via first innings leads.

He was livid over the fact that Mumbai didn’t play like Ranji Trophy champions in the recent Irani Cup by electing to field. I am digressing. Rassol’s praise for Bedi makes me wonder why the spin sage is not given charge of India’s spin development.

What if he was put in charge? Firstly, there would be some reluctance to give him the job. Not because he falls short on qualifications (266 Test wickets) but the fact that he will not be available full-time. Can the BCCI work around that problem? Yes. Is it worth offering him a job with a good amount of freedom attached to it? Yes again. And would it be undemocratic to tell him he won’t be able to speak to media while he works on improving India’s spin stocks? Probably.

To visualise a media explosion at Bedi’s spin work place would be realistic. But there’s a job to be done and I’m sure Bedi is, in many ways, reasonable. He won’t agree to have his lips zipped nor will he discourage the boys from expressing themselves. I reckon a thorough coaching role will help Bedi further appreciate how the game has changed. One cannot see how India’s spin talent cannot take their careers to a new level with Bedi by their side. He won’t tolerate chuckers even if they are born with the most pitiable of deformities. That has to be a plus.

What will be a problem with Bedi is when someone needs help over how to bowl in a Twenty20 game. He dislikes even discussing this form of the game and spinners do play a big role in this circus. Bishan Singh Bedi is as vitriolic as they come, but he has a big heart and he loves talking to young cricketers. Not many years ago, I was stunned to see him engaged in a long conversation with a 14-year-old cricketer at the lobby of the MIG Cricket Club in Bandra where he delayed his dinner. “Smart kid; enjoyed talking to him,” he said while at the bar. It turns out that the boy was not even a spinner.

The well-meaning administrators of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) the winner of BCCI’s Best Association award for two years in a row will do well to recommend Bedi’s name as chief coach of a thorough spin programme. BCCI meetings can do with some more cricket being discussed if that is not happening. Rassol’s success is good news for Indian cricket, but the spin cupboard is begging for some more occupants. Until then, India will have to endure comments like ‘your spinners are not as good as Swann and Panesar.’

Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor

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