India are set to beat New Zealand in the second Test with Ravichandran Ashwin taking three second-innings wickets as the visitors, chasing 540, fell to 5-140.
Cricket has witnessed many spinners of class who spun their web of magic on the 22 yards. We have seen the likes of Shane Warne, Abdul Qadir, Anil Kumble and Muralitharan – all of whom who supplemented their fast bowlers.
But never in the history of cricket has a team of spinners completely shouldered the entire bowling attack for a country for such a long period of time. They are the famous Indian spin quartet of Bishen Singh Bedi, B. Chandrasekhar, E. Prasanna and Venkatraghavan.
It is worth noting that for no less than a decade, they carried the burden of Indian bowling attack, without a single quick bowler of substance to back them. An outstanding feat indeed.
Historically the only Test all these four spinners played together was in a Test match in 1967. But for more than a decade since then, all of them played for India in some combination or other.
Australia had the first taste of the famous Indian spin attack in 1969, when Ian Chappell – apparently troubled by Prasanna – suggested he was the hardest spinner he ever faced.
India tasted its first major victory abroad at The Oval, in the year 1971. India and its spinners never looked back ever since. Series of wins in different series followed, though interspersed with a few losses like the English tour of 1974, when the Indian spinners couldn’t get a good grip on the ball due to an unusually cold, wet and blustery early English summer.
In the series of 1974-75 against the West Indies India lost the series narrowly by a margin of two to three. But the spinners carved their niche, with the young master blaster Vivian Richard clearly seen out of the world against Chandra’s leggies.
Soon came the 1976-77 series down under in Australia. Bobby Simpson’s team managed to eke out a narrow win over India, in spite of some world class spin seen from the famous triumvirate of Bedi, Chandra and Prasanna.
It was around the same time that the media mogul Kerry Packer started his rebel World Series Down Under, which attracted almost all the fast bowlers from that generation. It would have been interesting to see these Indian spin troika who did so well in the official series of 1976, playing in this rebel cricket league.
It was a missed opportunity, for the presence of these spinners would have added some spice and flavour to the gang of “big boys who played at night” – a popular Packer slogan. Apart from Derek Underwood of England, no other team of that time possessed a spinner of their quality and calibre.
But the ageing Indian spin quartet were soon to be edged out after a below par performance against their arch rival Pakistan. Zaheer Abbaz, Javed Miandad and Imran Khan hit them with impunity out of the ground and out of their career. The lost series across India’s western border acted as the harbinger of the demise of India’s famous quartet.
The curtain came down on their career sooner, though later in 1979 Bedi toured England under the leadership of his other quartet mate Venkatraghavan.
This series saw the rise of Kapil Dev, dawning the beginning of yet another era in India’s bowling, as the last of the quartet, Bedi and Venky would faded away into a not so graceful exit.