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Bishen Singh Bedi

With his passing this week, the legacy of Bishen Singh Bedi, one of India’s legendary spinners, has left a void in the cricketing world. Bedi, along with his contemporaries Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, and Srinivas Venkataraghavan, formed the quartet of spin wizards during what is often referred to as the golden age of spin in Indian cricket.

These spin maestros etched their names in history through their remarkable performances on the international stage. However, behind this quartet lay an intense competition for spots in the Indian cricket team, resulting in the unfortunate exclusion of talented spinners like Padmakar Shivalkar and Vaman Vishwanath Kumar, better known as V.V. Kumar, who despite their impressive domestic records, never got a chance to represent India at the highest level.

The 1960s and 1970s were pivotal years for Indian cricket. The country was yet to establish itself as a dominant force in international cricket, but it was during this time that Indian spinners flourished, forming the backbone of the national team’s bowling attack. Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar, and Venkataraghavan, collectively known as the ‘Fabulous Four,’ epitomised the art of spin bowling. Their ability to bamboozle batsmen with flight, guile, and turn made them the most formidable spin quartet in the world.

During this golden age, India played to their strengths, often relying on spin to secure victories. These four spinners played crucial roles in India’s historic series wins against formidable opponents like England, West Indies, and New Zealand. However, beneath the sheen of the ‘Fabulous Four,’ there existed a competitive ecosystem of spin bowlers within India, waiting for their chance to shine on the international stage – some of whom never ever got the opportunity.

The sad saga of Shivalkar and Kumar

Padmakar Shivalkar

Padmakar Shivalkar and V.V. Kumar were two such spinners who had the misfortune of plying their trade during an era of intense competition. Despite consistently impressive performances in domestic cricket, they found their paths to the Indian national team blocked by the formidable quartet.

Shivalkar was a left-arm spinner who plied his trade for Bombay in the Ranji Trophy. His numbers in domestic cricket are nothing short of astounding. Shivalkar took a staggering 589 wickets in 124 Ranji matches, an achievement that places him among the all-time leading wicket-takers in the history of India’s premier domestic competition. Moreover, his average of 19.69 and economy rate of 1.73 in first-class cricket underlines his exceptional consistency.

V.V. Kumar played only two test matches.

Despite these remarkable figures, Shivalkar never got an opportunity to represent India in Tests. His prime coincided with the dominance of Bedi and Prasanna. The competition for a spot in the national team was so fierce that he had to remain content with a prolific domestic career.

V.V. Kumar, a leg-spinner from Karnataka, was another victim of the intense competition among Indian spinners. Kumar was a wicket-taking machine in the domestic circuit, finishing his first-class career with 351 wickets from 98 matches at an average of 21.07. His numbers were certainly comparable to those of some of the international spinners of his time.

However, Kumar had to compete with the likes of Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan for a place in the Indian team. The leg-spinning department was already well-represented, and the selectors seemed hesitant to make changes to a winning combination. As a result, Kumar’s international dream remained unfulfilled.

To shed light on the potential that was overlooked, let’s compare the domestic records of Shivalkar and Kumar with those of their international contemporaries, Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar, and Venkataraghavan.

PlayerInternational CareerDomestic Career
Bishen Singh Bedi67 Tests, 266 wickets, avg. 28.71861 wickets in 184 FC matches
Erapalli Prasanna49 Tests, 189 wickets, avg. 30.38958 wickets in 228 FC matches
Bhagwath Chandrasekhar58 Tests, 242 wickets, avg. 29.74437 wickets in 129 FC matches
Srinivas Venkataraghavan57 Tests, 156 wickets, avg. 36.11571 wickets in 193 FC matches
Padmakar ShivalkarDid not play internationally589 wickets in 124 FC matches, avg. 19.69
VV KumarPlayed only two tests351 wickets in 98 FC matches, avg. 21.07

The story of Padmakar Shivalkar and VV Kumar serves as a poignant reminder of the intense competition for spots in the Indian cricket team during the golden age of spin.

The ‘Fabulous Four’ will forever be celebrated for their contributions to Indian cricket, but it’s essential to remember the spinners like Shivalkar and Kumar, who toiled in the shadows, hoping for a moment of recognition that never arrived. The competition among these talented spinners was a double-edged sword, elevating the performance standards in domestic cricket but also denying some deserving players their rightful place in the limelight.

In the end, Padmakar Shivalkar, VV Kumar, and others like them may not have worn the Indian colours, but their remarkable domestic records ensure that they remain etched in the annals of Indian cricket history as unsung heroes of spin bowling.