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Bedi: If I was Zaheer Khan, I’d contemplate suicide...

‘Dhoni’s lucky to still be the captain’
A Telegraph Special
Bishan Singh Bedi

Calcutta: Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, an outstanding left-arm spinner, isn’t known to mince words. Typically, then, he gave an explosive interview to The Telegraph late on Monday.

The following are excerpts

QPlaying at home, on a spinning track, and thrashed by ten wickets within 90 minutes on the fourth day. What’s your take on India’s performance, or the lack of it, at the Wankhede?

A We overestimated ourselves and underestimated England... The English must be having a good laugh... I can’t understand why (captain Mahendra Singh) Dhoni made such a public call for spinning wickets. Do you shout from the rooftops?

So, we got it all wrong?

Of course, yes... Does Dhoni have a Derek Underwood or a Pras (Erapalli Prasanna) in his team? Do we have match-winning spinners? What I’d like to know is who is responsible for the type of wickets prepared? Who devises strategy? Moreover, does anybody have a vision?

Was it a mistake fielding three spinners?

When Dhoni doesn’t know how to handle two, how could he have handled three spinners? If I was Zaheer Khan, I’d contemplate suicide! He has close to 300 Test wickets, yet didn’t open the bowling in the first innings and wasn’t given even an over in the second.

You’re being quite critical of Dhoni...

(Firmly) Dhoni’s lucky to still be the captain after leading India to eight defeats in-a-row overseas. Very lucky.

Why were Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin found wanting?

Harbhajan was trying too hard... The other two were trying things like the carrom ball... Come on, first learn to pitch it in the right area, then attempt variations... Our spinners bowled two-three bad balls in every over, which is unpardonable. They lacked rhythm... If Harbhajan had been dropped last year for a loss of form, what did he do to earn a recall? Did he set the Beas on fire? Ashwin thinks he’s already Jim Laker... When is the last time that Harbhajan, Ojha and Ashwin each bowled 40 overs in a single Ranji Trophy innings? It’s by bowling long spells that bowlers get into rhythm, not by sending down four overs in an IPL game... Why is Ishant Sharma in the dressing room if he’s not playing? He should have been released for Delhi. How can he deliver if he isn’t putting in the overs?

Who are your two best spinners in India?

That’s not for me to say.

Why not?

Let the selectors, four of whom are getting Rs 60 lakh annually, and the chairman Rs 70 lakh, name them.

Monty Panesar (match figures of 11 for 210) and Graeme Swann (eight for 113) outshone the Indian spinners...

To think they aren’t top class would be foolish... Monty is the quintessential English pro, while Swann is easily the world’s best off-spinner today... His is such a clean action and he’s a beautiful teaser.... Teases the batsmen. Their spells had a purpose and, except (Cheteshwar) Pujara, we don’t have a grafter... Don’t have a Rahul Dravid or a V.V.S. Laxman. It’s too much to expect Sachin Tendulkar to graft at this stage of his career.

You’ve worked with Panesar, haven’t you?

He’s a wonderful lad.

What has hurt you the most about India’s massive defeat in the second Test?

That our batsmen just capitulated... We even allowed England to win by ten wickets... Look at what happened in Adelaide on the same day... Gutsy South Africa forced a draw... They played with pride. Why did we not fight? I’d like an answer.

Strangely, Sachin has become a soft target for quite a few...

(Agitatedly) Only those who’ve played at least 150 Tests should be analysing Sachin’s game... The experts on TV seem to only remember what he has done in the last few matches, forgetting everything he’s achieved over 23 years. Let Sachin be, let him sort things out on his own.

Some words on England’s captain, the inspirational Alastair Cook... How highly do you rate him?

Cooky’s a leader... He does things in a quiet manner, grafts when at the crease... He’s like an old-fashioned captain, very clear about what he wants... At the presentation, he lauded KP (Pietersen) and his spinners, without mentioning his own contribution, which was significant. I like him.

The momentum is with England...

It is, for now... A 1-1 scoreline means it’s a two-Test series Calcutta onwards... India’s under pressure, but the Dhonis have invited it upon themselves.

Dhoni is still talking of wanting turning wickets, but the Eden curator (veteran Prabir Mukherjee) has said any request/instruction has to be in writing. Unusual, isn't it?

I’m happy to learn that... Clearly, he takes professional pride in the work he does. Good for him.

Didn’t you ever ask for pitches to turn square from very early?

Never... Never. That never occurred to us... There were no curators then, who would we have asked? The maalis?

Generally speaking, is there a way forward?

Focus on domestic cricket, look at the quality of pitches.

The final one... You’ve been critical of Dhoni, but what about the coach, Duncan Fletcher? He’s getting away with everything...

The coach, I reckon, is only here to make money, that’s it. Obviously, he doesn’t want to interfere with anything.