New Delhi: Bishan Bedi, the former India finger-spinner, has questioned Ian Chappell’s hyping of Under-19 left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh while criticizing the BCCI’s lavish rewarding of the successful World Cup-winning team.
The 19-year old Harmeet only took six wickets from four matches in Australia, but an economy rate of 3.02 put him at third best for bowlers to have bowled at least 40 overs in the World Cup in Townsville. Chappell, the former Australia captain, had in a column on Sunday compared Harmeet to Bedi, terming him "the best spin bowler in any Test side bar England".
Speaking to Cricketnext, however, Bedi was critical of Chappell’s praise as he felt it put undue pressure on a bowler with the experience of just three first-class matches. "I read his [Chappell’s] column and listened to his comments about Harmeet Singh during the U-19 World Cup. I laughed uproariously about his remarks about Harmeet. Let me say two things - Harmeet is undoubtedly very talented and a huge prospect for the future but let him first play and perform in first-class cricket and international cricket. Why distract the kid and put burden on him right away? There's a massive gulf between U-19 cricket and first-class cricket and further between first-class cricket and international cricket," he said.
"My second point is, why do we take foreigners so seriously? I have a lot of admiration for Ian Chappell and his cricketing acumen but I couldn't understand why the media is making a huge brouhaha about Chappell's comments? Do we need Chappell to certify the talent of our cricketers? Before few days no one knew about Harmeet and after Chappell's remarks, media and people are going berserk. Chappell is no God-send."
Bedi, 65, felt that Harmeet was a talent to watch out for but cautioned of the difficult road ahead. “He's definitely very talented. He has lovely flight and beautiful action. But there have been many talented spinners before him," said Bedi. "How he graduates to the next well and adds more variety to his repertoire will determine his longevity and success. They key is not to be distracted with money, fame and other external factors, and keep working diligently. It is easier said than done, though."
The former India captain was also ready for advice, should Harmeet approach him. "I watched him closely and there are few points which I've noted about his bowling. If he comes to me, I'll tell him some key areas where he needs to work on. There are few changes he could make to become a better bowler and these are the changes which could be easily made at this stage so that they would not hassle him in the future."
Bedi was also critical of the BCCI’s decision to award each of the World Cup winners with a bonus of 20 lakhs each, terming the move as "rubbish" and a means by which the youngsters would get overawed. "I am proud of the U-19 World Cup winning team and heartily wish each member of the squad but BCCI's decision is absolutely ridiculous, totally rubbish," he said. "It sends the wrong message. These are not professional cricketers. Most of them have not even played first-class cricket and they all are very young. By giving each member 20 lakhs the BCCI is spoiling their mind. From now, they'll not think much of or won't accept any monetary reward less than 20 lakhs.
"The focus would be more on money and less on cricket. I don't blame these kids. If such filthy amount of money is given to them at this age, it is bound to breed complacency and arrogance which are not good for their cricketing future. Would the BCCI take the blame if most of these cricketers fade away without leaving much impact? If the BCCI wanted to encourage them, they could have organized a felicitation ceremony to honour them and given gifts. The reward of 20 lakhs is a very short-sighted decision by the BCCI."
Asked about whether Harbhajan Singh, discarded from the Indian team for over a year, could make a return to the Test team, Bedi replied in the negative. "Every cricketer has a shelf-life. One could stretch it if they're Sachin Tendulkar. But unfortunately Harbhajan is not Tendulkar. I don't think he has anything left in him to offer to Indian cricket," he said. "He has rendered fine service to Indian cricket over the last decade but his time is up now. I keep hearing that he snapped up three wickets and five-wicket hauls in county cricket. But what is the quality of teams, he's playing against? Has he set the county circuit ablaze?"
Bedi was also dismissive of the achievements of Pragyan Ojha, the Test spinner who formed a major part of India’s innings victory over New Zealand on Sunday. "Ojha is no bowler. He's a downright chucker."