17 May 1945: B.S. Chandrasekhar, Indian cricketer, was born


“Never again will another cricketer with the humility of B S Chandrasekhar walk on an Indian or foreign cricket pitch.”

~ Bishen Singh Bedi, Indian cricketer, talks about B S Chandrasekhar, in an interview, May 2005.

Indian cricketer and leg spinner, B S Chandrasekhar is considered as one of the best bowlers in the world. Born on the 17 May 1945, in Mysore, the cricketing legend showed his prowess in the field between 1964 and 1979. Regarded as a “rare jewel” in the world of cricket, Chandrasekhar is best known for having a lethal bowling action, despite his polio affected right arm. His bowling attacks not only garnered him praise from teammates, but also wins for India on international grounds, which was in fact a first for the nation. In his career, he won several cricketing awards, including the Wisden Cricketer of the Year (1972), and honours, like the Arjuna Award and Padmashri (both in 1972).

His Early Years

The story of B S Chandrasekhar’s life is nothing less than inspirational. At a tender age of six, Chandrasekhar was affected by polio, and this caused the deformation of his right arm. His love for cricket kept him strong, and he started to play the game after he recovered, at the age of ten. Chandrasekhar’s initial field was the street and his early players and opponents were children living in the neighbourhood, in Mysore.

After his father shifted the family to Bangalore, Chandrasekhar joined the cricketing club named “City Cricketers,” to learn a higher level of the game. According to his own confession, Chandrasekhar’s reason for joining was to use a leather ball instead of the rubber ball for bowling, while playing on the streets. Young Chandra considered Richie Benaud, the Australian leg spinner and all-rounder, as his inspiration. However, he did try his hand on different bowling styles before settling with the leg spin.

Career Beginnings

Chandrasekhar’s professional cricketing career began with the match between India and England, in 1964, his first international test match. According to people who witnessed the game, Chandrasekhar’s bowling style was baffling for the English batsmen, who found the “deliveries unplayable.” Chandrasekhar managed to get, “four wickets in the first innings and one in the second, to finish with five wickets for the game.” However, he did not show any talent with the bat, and in his first-ever match was out for a duck. Though the crucial wickets he took, won him the Cricketer of the Year Award in India (1964).

Chandrasekhar’s unpredictable spin bowling went on to create havoc in the batsmen’s minds. His first five-wicket haul came in 1966, just two years after his debut, against West Indies. India, although lost the test match despite Chandrasekhar’s seven wickets for 157 runs (in total).

Due to an injury during a match against Australia and a subsequent accident, Chandrasekhar was indisposed for four years from 1967. But, after he returned in 1971, he showed his top form. He played his career’s best innings in the same year. The match was in the Oval, against England. It was for the first time that India won against England, and the reason was Chandrasekhar’s six wickets for only 38 runs. This bowling performance later won Chandrasekhar the “Indian Bowling Performance of the Century” award, honoured and recognised by Wisden in 2002.

The Spin Quartet

Indian cricket in the 1960s was renowned not only for Chandrasekhar’s unpredictable bowling action, but also for his bowling partnerships with three other players of the team – Bishen Singh Bedi, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, and Erapalli Ananthrao Srinivas Prasanna. Together, the four spinners took good care of the ‘Indian bowling attack.’ While Prasanna and Venkataraghavan were off-spinners, Bedi and Chandrasekhar took care of the leg spin. Each of the bowlers had different ways of approaching the attack, which kept the batsmen guessing the next move.

Both Bedi and Chandrasekhar had immense respect for each other. Bedi, in an interview called ‘Chandu’ “a genius who confounded the world’s best batsmen,” and remarked, “When I saw [him] walking on the field, trust me, I felt I saw God in him!” Prasanna considered Chandrasekhar to be his ‘kid brother.’ They had played for the same club in their early years. Prasanna regarded his ‘Chandra’ to be “a tremendous morale-booster and teammate through and through.” The then captain of the Indian cricket team, Ajit Wadekar deemed Chandrasekhar to be a “match-winner” and “a freak-bowler.” In an interview, he explained Chandra’s bowling action, “Chandra got a lot of wickets on foreign soil, because he was not a regular leg-spinner. You don't come across bowlers like him every now and then. By the time the batsmen came to terms with his bowling, the tour would be over and he would return with lot of wickets.” Such was Chandrasekhar’s fame. He was a team player and “a man with enormous will-power.”

His Career Graph

Chandrasekhar’s career spanned through eleven years (not including the years he couldn’t play due to injury). During this time, he played 58 international test matches, taking 242 wickets; and one ODI (one day international), taking three wickets. His bowling average in the test matches was 29.74 and 12.00 in ODIs.

Throughout his career, Chandrasekhar showed a rather unconventional form of leg spin bowling. His bowling action comprised a “long, bouncing run-up,” followed by “sharp googlies, spiteful top-spins and leg breaks,” at a pace faster than that of a medium pacer. This erratic bowling technique is still studied and talked about by past and current cricket enthusiasts.

After 1979, Chandrasekhar retired from the international arena and settled in Bangalore. Throughout his life he suffered from several injuries and accidents, but his mental strength and unconquerable spirit makes him one of the greatest and most respected cricketers of all time.

Also on this day:

  • 2007 – T K Doraiswamy, Indian poet and author (pen name – Nakulan), died
  • Each year - World Information Society Day, (proclaimed by the United Nations)

References:

  • Interviews by B S Bedi, E A S Prasanna and Ajit Wadekar to rediff.
  • ESPN Cricinfo Website

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