In 2006, Virender Sehwag was criticised for not knowing who Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad were when Rahul Dravid and he were inching closer to their world record opening partnership in Tests.
"There is a tendency among the current cricketers that the game of cricket begins with them and ends with them," lamented Bishan Singh Bedi, former India captain and one of the finest exponents of left-arm spin on Friday.
Bedi spoke at OSIAN's opening auction preview of India Glorious Cricketing Heritage at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai on Friday. The auction, which is by invitation, is scheduled at the CCI on September 13.
Bedi was one of the four former cricketers -- Ajit Wadekar, EAS Prasanna and Anshuman Gaekwad were the others -- who spoke on how contemporary cricket can learn from India's cricketing heritage.
"Cricket, to a large extent, is a growing industry. It was there long before we played. It is very difficult to convince the present lot about the history of cricket," Bedi said.
Wadekar, as captain of the historic Test series wins in the West Indies (1970-71) and England (1971), created a legacy that made the Indian cricketers believe that they can actually travel abroad and win too.
"With those kind of wins, we started believing in our cricket mind that we could beat the mighty West Indies and also the English lions in their own den," said Wadekar. "I was just part of the team that had greats like Bedi, Prasanna, Sunil Gavaskar, who had a tremendous debut in the West Indies, and Dilip Sardesai among others. That's the time we started to think that we could do well not only at home but also in other countries."
Bedi added: "Winning gave us credibility that is very very important in Indian cricket. Winning three series in a row then -- two abroad and one at home -- was a terrific achievement and I was fortunate to be part of that team. It all happened because it was a team game and we were fortunate to have a very positive captain in Tiger Pataudi and after him a leader in Ajit Wadekar. Winning makes you believe in yourself. You play any sport to win and not while away your time. Winning creates a distinct sense of achievement."
Former off-spinner Prasanna said that Indian cricket came to the limelight in 1971-72 under Wadekar. "India's first overseas came in New Zealand in 1967 under Tiger Pataudi but there was no euphoria at that time because New Zealand were considered as a mere pushover. Wadekar's form, Bedi coming to limelight, Chandu Borde's form helped them leave a legacy behind."
Prasanna added that Wadekar, when he took over, was clear about the need to win in the West Indies. "Wadekar believed in one thing what was given to him by Tiger -- he had the bowlers who can take 20 wickets to win a Test match."
While Wadekar and his team set a legacy, a similar pattern was set by him when he was cricket manager of the Indian team in the 1990s. "In 1971, I was shocked to get captaincy. In the same way, I was shocked to get the post of cricket manager in 1990s. When we went to South Africa for the first time in 1992-93, I could find our team going haywire. Our focus was getting lost. I had to implement some discipline into the team. The players then started realising their own potential."
For Gaekwad, who came in the mid 1970s and carried on till the 1980s, the 1971 twin wins in West Indies and England was the kind of start that Indian cricket needed so that the youngsters could take up the game as a career option. "There had to be some start and the wins gave a sense of knowing you can do it," the former opening batsman said.
A legacy that is missing now-a-days is the crowd for domestic matches. "Not many go to watch Test matches in India, forget Ranji Trophy. When we were playing, there were crowd of 35,000 for a Ranji Trophy and we had police bandobast and ticket sales," said Gaekwad.
Wadekar said that playing cricket the hard way was inculcated into them from domestic matches. "Bombay won Ranji Trophy for 15 consecutive seasons and it was Karnataka who broke that streak. We were taught to play cricket the hard way and learnt it from our seniors Madhav Mantri, Bapu Nadkarni, Polly Umrigar. You had nothing but one goal, which was to win and win nicely," Wadekar said.
'Wadekar-Bedi battle helped Indian cricket'
Continuing on the importance of domestic matches, Bedi said that the first class cricket is the base that built one up for international competition. "Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy had a lot of significance., When we played, we used to feel so envious of Bombay who were winning Ranji Trophy season after season that they made the others feel that they don't know to play cricket. My personal battle with Wadekar began in Ranji Trophy. The battle between BSB and AW helped Indian cricket. There was the hunger to perform."
As the topic switched to IPL, there were divided opinions among the panelists. "IPL is not my cup of tea," Bedi said while Prasanna said, "One has to give it credit. Thanks to IPL and T20, the Indian team is one of the best fielding units today."
Gaekwad opined that before IPL began, "Indian team was getting lethargic, going low like the West Indies. What IPL did was it enlightened the entire game suddenly. The fan following increased."
Bedi stuck to his liking for the traditional format of the game, hitting out at the Board of Control for Cricket in India for its lavish appreciation to the Indian cricketers for winning the 2011 World Cup. "Weren't the Indian team supposed to win the competition they are playing in? There are far better ways to appreciate. BCCI has done yeoman service to cricket that no other sports federation is doing. Last year when we all got a one-time award from the BCCI, they made it appear that we got it thanks to the IPL. The board had the money before the wretched IPL came to picture," Bedi said.
They collected souvenirs too
The former players were asked if they collected souvenirs from the ground. Prasanna said: "We collected them without knowing its worth. I got nine wickets against West Indies in Chennai and wanted the ball as a souvenir. I asked the umpires and they told me to give it back to them as they had to return it to the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association!"
Wadekar said, "Where was OSIAN's when we were playing. Whatever I had, either they were torn or thrown out. We used to collect to remember the occasion. After winning The Oval Test in 1971, crowd invaded the pitch. Farookh Engineer and Abid Ali, who scored the winning runs, had to be escorted to the dressing room by the police. Suddenly, Abid sprinted back to the ground to pick up as stump as a souvenir."
The four former players also appealed that stories and anecdotes from former players including Madhav Mantri, the oldest Indian Test cricketer alive, be recorded so that the legacy of Indian cricket is kept intact.