The Atul Bedade Syndrome

by Devanshu Mehta

The year was 1993 and the manager of the Indian cricket team, Ajit Wadekar, had just had a heart attack. Skipper Mohd. Azharuddin was working hard to keep the news from his team. India was about to face the UAE in their international debut. India was returning to Sharjah after a more than two year hiatus, for the first time since Aaqib Javed‘s humiliating hat-trick of LBWs.

More importantly, for the purpose of our little tale, a young man from my childhood home of Baroda was about to make his debut. The word on the street was that the only way he scored runs was in sixes. Atul Bedade brought a fierce reputation from the domestic game. He promised to be Jayasuriya before Jayasuriya, Yusuf Pathan before Yusuf Pathan. He walked in at four down with a few overs to go and left with a whimper.

And so it went with the rest of his career. As he would walk in, the commentary team would inevitably say something like “the bowler should be worried, this man can hit everything out of the park.” Atul Bedade was expected to and tried to hit everything out of the park. In seven months and thirteen matches he hit 158 runs, thirty of which came in sixes. And then he receded in to obscurity.

There were quite a few reasons I started thinking about Bedade recently.

  1. Bedade may have thrived in the IPL. For a season or two, but maybe more.
  2. Afridi’s recent batting career is a classic Bedade. More appropriately, Bedade’s career was like recent Afridi. Not a real comparison, of course– Afridi the bowler, and Afridi the (former) explosive batsman have been terrifying limited over opponents. Alhamdulilah, indeed.
  3. I can only think of three batsmen who have lived up to the kind of hype I addressed above for long innings and a long career: Sehwag, Jayasuriya and Gilchrist. Not coincidentally, all of them have done well in Test cricket.