Sir Alec Bedser was a gentle giant
It was sad to hear about the passing away of Sir Alec Bedser at the
age of 91 last week after a brief illness.
Sir Alec was easily the best seam and swing bowler produced by
England. In the 1950s and 60s he was the king of swing and not many
batsmen wanted to face him when he had the red cherry in his hand.
The writer rubbernecking to speak to Sir Alec. The wall
hanging in his office in the back ground shows Sir Alec
being introduced to the Queen during a Test match (below)
Sir Alec putting me at ease - he sitting on a chair and me
on his table. Otherwise I would have suffered a stiff neck
continuing to speak to him
Standing well over six feet and with a lovely run up and side on
action, he was always the tormentor of opposing batsmen and it is said
that even the great Sir Donald Bradman failed to read his seam and
swing, because he had the knack of moving it either way late.
He was at his best under the captaincy of Sir Leonard Hutton and
bagged a harvest of wickets. Playing at home or abroad, he had what
could be described as the God given gift to bowl on any wickets and in
At his best
Bedser played in Sri Lanka too and in those days the games in Sri
Lanka being whistle stop ones, local cricket fans did not have the
fortune of seeing him at his best. He played in many trophy winning
teams for Surrey capturing bags full of wickets every season and
continued in the same vein for England. Bedser was one of the fittest
bowlers going at that time. He attributed his supreme fitness to digging
earth from the age of 12. A little known fact is that he and his brother
Eric escaped being shot during the Second World War in France.
I had the good fortune of meeting the great man when as Sports Editor
in Chief of the Times Group I was the guest of the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office of Information and visited Britain in 1976 after a
Diploma Course in Journalism at the International Institute for
Journalism in West Berlin.
When I was introduced to Alec in his company the Burton Group, at
Oxford Street, in London, I was amazed to meet such a huge man nearing
something like seven feet and small me being only 5 feet 2 inches. It
was hard to differentiate between Sir Alec and his twin brother Eric.
At the time I met Sir Alec he was the chairman of MCC Cricket
Selection Committee. For a moment I stood transfixed. In being
introduced to him and saying 'hello', I had to rubberneck to speak to
this mountain of a man.
After the usual hand shake, he realized my predicament and with a
smile asked me to sit on his table while he sat on his chair to continue
the conversation and the interview.
Keeping me company was another Sri Lankan pal of mine Clement Arnold
who I was holidaying with in London. Incidentally Clement is the uncle
of Russel Arnold a former Sri Lankan cricketer and who is now making a
name of himself as international TV commentator.
Sir Alec put me at ease over a cup of coffee and spoke to me a lot
about his career, its beginning and how he made it to the England team
after a successful run with Surrey.
It was indeed a memorable meeting considering that I had read so much
about the great but not seen him in action.
The pictures above will give an idea of how tall Sir Alec was and how
small the writer was.
Bedser was a very nice guy. He did not flaunt his stature. But was
simple to a fault. It was a memorable meeting and I can still picture
May his soul rest in peace.