Ask anyone about fab 4 of Indian cricket nowadays, and I am sure that one would come up with the names of Sachin, Sourav, Rahul, and Sehwag. But the term ‘Fab-Four’ in Indian cricket was initiated by the spin quartet.
With no live television broadcast, one had to feel the magic spun by the quartet through the voices of Pearson Surita or Ananda Rao or maybe John Arlott. The romance that was embedded in cricket in those days was through the voices of these legends. During 1971, when India toured England to grab their first-ever series win on their land, it was Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan who was instrumental. Picking up 13 wickets in three test matches during the tour, he showed the damp pitches that it was not always about the swing and seam. The fingers can do the trick as well.
That was a time when unlike today we used to win one or two matches here and there. India as a team was not that consistent. And I believe those who loved Indian cricket hugged those moments for a very long time.
Over 15 years the spin quartet sup their web of magic and baffled opposition batsmen. They were a band of brothers. But were fighting among each other to cement themselves in the team. The dream of dawning the blue cap became a reality for each one of them at the age of 20 or earlier. All of them started their international career within two or three years of each other.
Erapalli Prasanna was the eldest of the four and came into the team in 1962, followed by Chandra in 1964. The following year Indian Cricket team saw the emergence of Venkat and finally in 1966 came the great Bishan Singh Bedi.
Many of the videos showing the spin quartet in action are available on Youtube today. In the age of 20-20 cricket, they seem like poetry in motion. The term might sound cliche, but honestly, a slow-paced smooth action of Bedi can not be termed anything but that.
The bashing Fab four of the early 2000s and the magician four of 60s and 70s may be incomparable. But these were the men who bamboozled the likes of Clive Lloyd, Ian Chappell. Toyed with brilliant batsmen such as Keith Fletcher, Doug Walters. In the 15 years, the fab four dawned the Indian colors, they seemed to have picked up every single wicket of the opposition.
There were times when Sunil Gavaskar opened. Of course, he opened the batting. But I was saying about him opening the bowling. To get the shine out of it, so that the magicians can start spinning their web. And Indian team was dependent on them, much like they were dependent on the modern fab four batting maestro in the 2000s.
The magic of spin came to an end when India toured Pakistan in 1978 after 18 long years. Javed Miandad was no Clive Lloyd. Against spinners, he was probably one of the best at that time. And so were the likes of the Pakistani batsmen like Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal, and Majid Khan. That tour brought upon the oblivion of the Fab Four.
With Cricket becoming a TRP affair after the economic reforms in the early 90s in India, the modern batting fab four became the perfect selling material for commercial tv in terms of grabbing spectators’ attention. But in the era of the buttoned shirt being the jersey, the spinning fab four brought India the recognition in the cricketing world. Thirsting upon which, the batting Fab Four became god-like in Indian household. But did we somewhere forget the first fab four in Indian Cricket?