April 5, 2010

English cricket

Tributes pour in for Sir Alec Bedser

Nitin Sundar

Sir Alec Bedser's death has triggered a series of tributes. The Telegraph looks back at the life and times of the man who retired in 1955, as the world's most successful Test bowler, with 236 wickets to his name.

Gathering himself at the start of his run-in with three walking steps, he would approach the wicket with nine mastodontic strides. Arrived at the crease, his left arm would be flung up high, while his body — pivoting on a firmly braced left leg — adopted the classical sideways-on position. The right arm, high at the point of delivery, would follow through to describe almost a full circle.

Derek Pringle observes in the same paper, that Bedser thoroughly deserved his knighthood, a rare honour for a bowler.

In a sporting era where materialistic rewards were few, his playing career was the very epitome of service, a foreign word to most modern players. His 236 Test wickets were the most ever taken by the time he played the last of his 51 Tests in 1955.

Simon Hughes goes a step further, calling Bedser the "Shane Warne of his time".

The Times has unearthed a gem - a letter from Bradman to Bedser that sealed the friendship between the two Ashes rivals.

“It did seem to me that the best ball you bowled was the one which went away to the slips off the pitch and if you could reproduce the one with which you bowled me in Adelaide then you would not have to worry about any others.”

Christopher Martin-Jenkins revisits the memorable rivalry, in the same paper.

He was humble, down-to-earth, unspoilt, loyal, always willing to serve and a master of British understatement. “Bradman,” he would say in response to yet another inquiry, with a gentle smile and in a voice somewhere between a growl and a whine, “Yes, he could play a bit.”

The Guardian's obituary says it would be hard to find a more endearingly old-fashioned, uncomplicated man – or, many would say, a finer bowler – than Sir Alec Bedser.

A one-dimensional, some would say unworldly, bachelor, his conservative attitudes and single-minded lifestyle, generated by upbringing and reliability, Bedser did what he was asked, avoided social excesses and lived for his cricket.

Mike Selvey looks at why Bedser was a genuine giant of England and Surrey cricket, in the same paper.

There was a deal more to him than the stereotypical fellow who bowled a season's-worth before the end of May, wearing hand-me-down boots, before walking home each night to Woking. But the wisdom came on the back of thousands of overs, delivered faithfully and with such stout heart that it is a wonder that finally it has stopped beating.

Alec Bedser was often mistaken for his identical twin brother Eric. The BBC's tribute includes a wonderful anecdote about the two brothers.

Against Old England at the Oval in 1947, Alec bowled the first three balls to Frank Woolley and Eric completed the over. The batsman never noticed the difference, but turned to the keeper and remarked, "He's got a wonderful change of pace."

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Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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