Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bishan Singh Bedi: Don"t dilute Test cricket

“Nothing should come easy in Test cricket,” reckoned former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi. “Runs, wickets, catches…players must be made to work hard for them. That’s why it is played over five days.”

The Delhi-based Sardar of Spin was not one bit surprised with the International Cricket Council (ICC) deeming the Pune pitch which hosted the opening Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series as “poor.”

“I say this with humility, I don’t need the ICC to tell me it was a poor pitch. I knew it when I first saw the action on television. It was a disgrace and I feared someone would get seriously injured,” Bedi told mid-day yesterday.

India captain Virat Kohli and umpire Richard Kettleborough look at a vital spot on the Pune track during an interval on Day 3 of the first Test against Australia last Saturday. Pic/AFP

The Pune Test ended inside three days in which the Indian batsmen could survive no more than 74 overs although Australia played some brilliant cricket through left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe’s 12-wicket haul and a remarkable century by skipper Steve Smith.

“Look, the World No. 1 (India) and World No 2 teams are playing this series. Surely, they deserve a good surface. It was so sad to see a bowler like R Ashwin opening the bowling in both innings. He’s such a fine bowler, too good a bowler to be made to face this reality. The essence of Test cricket is its duration. At the end of the five days, you witness what both teams did. There has to be a basic qualitative aspect,” said Bedi, who figured in 67 Tests from 1966 to 1979.

He offered a straight bat to the current controversy in which Pune curator Pandurang Salgaoncar has blamed BCCI’s pitch committee chief Daljit Singh.

“I don’t think the curator comes into play once he prepares the best possible pitch. His pride is at stake. For example, nobody can speak to the Lord’s curator, asking him for a particular pitch,” said Bedi.

While pitches like the one in Pune is no advertisement for Test cricket, Bedi wondered why are smaller centres hosting Test matches.

“You need to market and promote Test cricket. If bigger centres can’t do that, how do you expect smaller venues to do so? I can’t see why you want to have Test cricket in Ranchi and Dharamsala (venues of the third and fourth India vs Australia Tests).

Would a Test match be held at Northampton instead of Lord’s? Would Junction Oval host a Test instead of the Melbourne Cricket Ground? No, this is not called popularising the traditional game. Test cricket cannot be diluted and you are doing just that by having Tests at small centres,” said Bedi, who played first-class cricket in England and Australia for Northamptonshire and Rest of the World respectively.

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