Several great cricketers have made it as far as they did because their parents or someone in the family made supreme sacrifices in a bid to ensure that the kid gets to travel a long mile. Though rare are cases where, from a very young age a kid shoulders responsibility to earn for the family, instead of having a support system and sufficient backing with which to chase his great cricketing dream. He was hardly in his teens, when along with his twin brother, Eric, a Surrey legend, Alec Bedser started working multiple jobs in order to fend for his family.
At 14, where most up-and-coming cricketers were already on the field, sweating against the burning sun and braving cold to realise the dream on the 22 yards, Alec Bedser found himself in courtrooms and often holding legal papers, working with a lawyer to make ends meet, apart from doing numerous other jobs to support his family.
In his prestigious Woking Cricket Club, he’d have to wear a black belt in order to distinguish himself from his twin.
A bricklayer’s son with not an extra penny to throw around, one who had to wait for no fewer than eight long years for the treachery of Hitler’s great war to end so that his career, that had been waiting in the sidelines until such time, could blossom, Alec Bedser was not just a cricketer. He became a titan of English fast bowling, an adjective of tremendous line and length, and above all, a mugshot of success in that discipline of cricket where one cannot scale dizzying heights minus countless body blows and setbacks, injury scares and setbacks that often threaten to derail ambitious journeys.
For someone who was spotted bowling really quick by the great (and often unsung) Alan Peach at the Woking Cricket Club and one who’d find himself inducted into the revered Royal Air Force of Great Britain to serve his country during the Second World War, it was no less than witnessing a war-like situation when Sir Alec Bedser would come to wield the red cherry in hand.
The legendary Lala Amarnath was a witness of it. As were the greats- Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare, distinguished giants of Indian cricket whose names stand on a very high pedestal of cricketing greatness.
Alec Bedser’s was a debut that had been keenly awaited for a long time and when it did finally happen, and that too, at the spiritual home of Cricket- the Lord’s- it was India who felt the pinch and Sir Alec Bedser, the divine taste of glory.
Most cricketers dream of capturing a fifer at the ground, others dream about hitting a ton, whilst many have failed at hitting the three-figure mark.
Though a talent like few others, Alec Bedser emerged with a ten-for in his very first outing in Test cricket, a format he was responsible for moulding into being a ruthless slugfest between the bat and ball, before ultimately going to elevate its status by taking no fewer than 236 wickets from just 51 Tests.
It must be noted though, that what was just as sterling as his Test debut were the weeks before its build-up. Even as he’d suffered from a thigh muscle injury, which he’d bound up with an Elastoplast, Bedser had been busy bowling prior to the celebrated Lord’s appearance, constantly taking big wickets in the early summer of 1946, his dismissals including that of paragons of English batsmanship- Wally Hammond and Len Hutton.
His is a tale of bravery and determination, passion and boundless love for the game, which ultimately yielded a career that’s respected not only by a bastion of English legends- be it Botham and Anderson, Gower and Hussein, but by various generations for whom cricket is the triumph of the cherry beating the bat’s defences, the victory of the pump-fisted triumphant bowler, not the one who adorns the helmet or other protective headgear.
Ensuring his burst into Test cricket was no flash in the pan, the legendary Sir Alec Bedser, who’d taken eleven wickets at Lord’s would move on to take just as many in the next game at Manchester.
Described as a bowler who didn’t have the pace as that of a Jimmy Anderson at his prime, but one astutely gifted with the art of swinging it both ways and for maintaining nagging accuracy, Bedser triumphed against opponents most dreaded facing- Australia and India.
Though someone whose armoury wasn’t merely decorated by several arduous challenges for batsmen such as the in-swinging delivery, but also featured a lethal leg-cutter, one almost impossible to pick, among the crowning moments in the right arm medium pacer’s life came when he ran into Sir Don himself during the 1946-47 Ashes series.
A contest that upheld the victory of the ball in an age where it seemed Sir Don wielded less of a bat and more of a sword slicing away bowlers mercilessly, the Australian would find in Alec Bedser, a true opponent and an unputdownable adversary.
During a decisive Test, Bedser ran into Bradman and pitched a delivery around his legs, which would in its ratting of the giant of the game, deviate to hit the top of off.
And this was to be the very wicket and moment, to be precise, that would elevate the status of the great bowler into that of a devastating attacker whose lethal weapons were deceptions and variations, not brute pace as such.
You know you are ruling the roost when revered publications drop the last bit of ink in your respect, but you know you’ve truly arrived and are meant for greatness when none other than Sir Don himself admits, “That ball, I think, was the finest ever, to take my wicket.”
In an age where cricket was only limited to Test matches with the advent of limited-overs contests coming in much later, Bedser reserved his best to tarnish the reputation of some of the best bats ever wielded by Indians, Australians, and even South Africans.
After the Bradman years, where England won the Ashes after a painfully long wait of two decades, in 1953, an ordeal of sorts for home fans, one man had a crucial part to play in it.
Sir Alec Bedser, who, in that series took five fifers and one ten-for. His mastery at attacking the best in the business could be understood by the fact that he’d often go for the best bat in a line-up.
No other batsman in his active years got the better of the iconic Neil Harvey on as many occasions as Sir Alec Bedser- dismissing the Fitzroy-born leftie on 12 occasions out of thirteen Tests, while Sir Don became a victim on six different occasions in ten Tests.
For someone who became the model example of what it meant to be a premium English paceman, it was hardly a surprise when in his later years, Bedser would be made a selector, for a period of two and a half decades (1961-85).
Though a career that was built on pure devotion to the game and arduous hours spent in the nets just practicing should have truly deserved a better ending instead of suffering from an abrupt one. To this day, one doesn’t know as to why Len Hutton, the captain during 1954-55 season decided to axe Bedser from a playing eleven without telling the Berkshire-born legend.
And just imagine how much more would this bowling wizard have gone on to achieve had nations like a Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh been playing Test cricket in an era where the distinction of playing cricket’s elite format was enjoyed by only six prized countries?
Sir Alec Bedser’s record versus all Test nations he played against
|Opponent||Wickets||Best bowling||Fifers, 10-fors||Bowling eco|
|Australia||104||7 for 44||7 and 2||2.4|
|India||44||7 for 49||4 and 2||1.8|
|West Indies||11||5 for 127||1 and 0||2.0|
|New Zealand||13||4 for 74||0 and 0||2.1|
|Pakistan||10||3 for 9||0 and 0||2.1|
|South Africa||54||7 for 58||3 and 1||2.0|