BENGALURU: January 1964 - July 1979. On paper, BS Chandrasekhar's international career reads 15 years. But what it does not tell us is his absence for more than three years from 1968-70 after a serious two-wheeler accident. One can say it was career-threatening too. He next featured in the England tour of 1971, and one did not know how he would fare upon return. In fact, he orchestrated India’s first series win in England with a magical six-wicket haul in the second innings of the third and final Test in Oval.
His monumental comeback showed the fighting spirit in him. Life was tough for him since childhood. He was polio-stricken from five years old. Despite his withered right arm -- he threw with his left, bowled with right -- Chandra, as he was popularly called, defied all odds to become a legend. After helping India win a number of matches, he finished his career with 242 wickets in 58 games, making him the eighth-highest wicket-taker in India's Test history. His teammate and close friend, Bishan Singh Bedi applauded his determination despite the problems.
“He was a gift from god. A chap, who could not throw with his right hand, bowled India to so many victories -- abroad and home -- with the same hand. You can only marvel at the man, who had an outstanding determination to excel. You cannot define him in normal cricketing terms. He was simply extraordinary. Not just one, I have many wonderful memories with him right throughout my career,” Bedi told this newspaper about Chandrasekhar, who turned 75 on Sunday.
The wrist-spinner was one of the most feared in world cricket then. If the likes of Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna disguised batsmen by their flight, Chandrasekhar, who wore full sleeves and had quite a long run up, bamboozled batsmen with his spin, often bowled at a good pace. Whatever black and white videos one has seen of Chandrasekhar, he seemed to uproot wickets with his deliveries, like a fast bowler. He is said to have troubled the greats of the game including Vivian Richards, who once said ‘he (Chandrasekhar) could do things with the ball that seemed unnatural’.
Even those who faced him in the Indian team nets found it tough to understand his bowling. Some of his balls would even rise chest high and was said to be unplayable once he got his line and length correct. “Chandra is Chandra. He was a unique bowler. I have faced all kind of bowlers, be it on the ground or at the nets, but I did not see a bowler like him. He was simply a freak with the ball. He had a rare combination of pace and spin. He could turn the ball, get the ball to jump. I remember few instances how the ball would reverse spin to the wicket even after someone played a backfoot defensive shot from the middle of the bat,” said Anshuman Gaekwad, who is regularly in touch with him. Gaekwad recently shared their playing days photos with Chandrasekhar too.
Chandrasekhar was not the only superstar in the spin department for India during those days. He formed a phenomenal spin quartet alongside Bedi, Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. They created havoc in the opposition camp. They instilled fear and Bedi felt it was their understanding, which helped them achieve greater things.
“I can only think of terrific camaraderie that we (four) had and the kind of trust we had in one another and that helped us on the field. It was remarkable. I cannot think of a more congenial kind of group, which complemented one another throughout,” said Bedi, who shared the hotel room with Chandra in some tours, helping the two share some special bond and thus know one another personally. “I tell you, he is such a pleasant person. I never heard him indulge in any kind of self pity. He is a lovely human being and a humble person too. He was my hero.”