Spin has always been the strength of the Indian cricket team as very few world class fast bowlers have emerged from this country.
It has been more than eight decades since India played its first Test match against England at Lord’s in 1932, and spin has remained India’s forte right through these years.
So let’s take a look at some of the fantastic Indian spin bowlers of yore, who captivated the spectators with their talent and guile whenever they took the field.
Babaji Palwankar Baloo
He is the father of Indian spin bowling who is remembered for his heroics on the field in the first half of 20th century. It is a pity that he never got to play any international Test match because by the time India played its first Test, Baloo was in his mid-50s.
But take a glance into his first class record and you will be amazed how an outcast Dalit of that time could play against the English specialists and take 179 wickets in just 33 matches at an astounding average of just 15.21, which not even the Hall of Famers that came after him have come even close to achieving.
He was the first true all-rounder to come out of the subcontinent. Although he is more famous today for his record opening partnership of 413 runs with Pankaj Roy and notorious for running out batsmen by “Mankading”, he was also an accomplished spinner.
Years after Baloo had stopped plying his trade, Mankad carried forward his legacy through his left-arm orthodox spin and went on to take 162 wickets from 44 Tests at an average of 32.32.
Regarded by many as the greatest Indian spinner till date whose skills with the ball were lauded by none other than the great Sir Gary Sobers himself, Subhashchandra Pandharinath “Fergie” Gupte made his Test match debut post-independence and quickly took over the mantle of the main spin bowler of the Indian team from Mankad.
In his decade long career, he played in 36 Test matches and scalped 149 wickets at an average of 29.55. The reason for the premature end to his career is both tragic and stupid considering that he had to pay the price for the promiscuousness of his team-mate A.G. Kripal Singh as they were both dropped from the team when the latter went overboard with his romantic gestures towards a hotel receptionist.
Rameshchandra Gangaram ‘Bapu’ Nadkarni made his Test debut when Mankad was in the twilight of his career, and quickly established himself as a slow left arm orthodox spinner of repute.
If you look at his career statistics of just 88 wickets from 41 Tests, you may wonder what he is doing in this elite list we have compiled.
Well, the reason is his unbelievable career economy rate of just 1.67 runs per over. He was extremely thrifty when it came to giving out runs and holds the world record for the most consecutive maiden overs bowled in 6-ball overs (21 maiden overs and 131 dot balls).
Bishan Singh Bedi
Bedi was a part of the legendary Indian spin quartet of the 60s and 70s that also consisted of B.S. Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna and S. Venkataraghavan.
The fact that he is considered as the leader of that amazing pack goes on to show his genius. Bapu Nadkarni passed on the mantle of slow left-arm orthodox spin to Bedi and Bedi never faltered.
His 266 wickets from 67 Tests at an average of 28.71, is the best statistical tally among the awesome quartet. One day international (ODI) cricket was just a recent phenomenon then, and Bedi went on to play in just 10 of them, picking up 7 wickets at an average of 48.57. So it is as a Test cricketer that he is more famous.
Bedi’s classic left-arm spin bowling and deceptive skills left most of the batsmen baffled, and he stands second only to Lance Gibbs in terms of maiden overs bowled per Test (16.35).