Erapalli Anantharao Srinivas Prasanna. The name alone is enough for many an Indian cricket fan to reminisce about an era where the team was blessed to have not one, not two but four legendary spinners. Prasanna, who played alongside BS Chandrasekhar, Bishen Singh Bedi and Srinivas Venkatraghavan, turned 80 on Friday.

The off-spinner is a legendary figure in Indian cricket and is often considered, especially by players from that era, to be the greatest practitioner of the art.

Having missed five years of international cricket after his first year on tour due to a promised made to his father, Prasanna played 49 Tests in a career that spanned from 1962 to 1978. He finished with 189 wickets at an average of 30.38. Prasanna was an irresistible force in domestic cricket, as he finished with a whopping 957 wickets in 235 matches.

He twice led Karnataka to the Ranji Trophy title. The first of those ended Bombay’s 15-year winning streak in 1975, when his side beat the domestic giants in the semi-final before overcoming the Rajasthan in the final.

“The prime period for a cricketer is when he is around 27 or 28 years old. When my dad passed away, I was 22. If I had played for India in those five years in between, I don’t know how many wickets I would have finished with,” Prasanna wrote for The Cricket Monthly, where he spoke about the practice match against West Indies that changed his career.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell has said Prasanna is the best spinner he had faced.

“I felt like he was trying to get me out every ball,” Chappell said in an interview where he discussed spin bowling sitting alongside Prasanna, adding that it was the Karnataka cricketer’s control over flight that stood out.

“We were having a beer after play one day and I said, ‘You little bastard, you’ve got a string tied to that ball. Every time it leaves your hand I say, I’m going to get to this one, and I get down there, and suddenly you pull on that string and drop the ball,’” Chappell added.

For Prasanna himself, the art of spin bowling was all about timing:

The term “timing”, by and large these days, is used only for a batsman – when he transfers his weight from the back leg to the front leg. At the moment of striking the ball, he transfers his whole body weight through the bat to the ball.

Bowlers also need timing. You transfer the weight at the release of the ball, at the highest point. Your weight has to go into the ball so that the ball traverses that distance.

You should also have some intuition of where to bowl. If I want to bowl at the off stump, that intent has to be there. Like a batsman has to have the intent to middle the ball. The moment he feels he is middling the ball, he feels far more confident, he thinks he’s in business. As a bowler, the basic objective is to see that no batsman middles the ball.

— via The Cricket Monthly

Prasanna’s was famed for his ability to perform well away from India as well as the tables below show.

Prasanna's Test record in various countries

Mat Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 5 10
in Australia 8 31 6/104 8/218 31.12 2.26 82.6 2 0
in England 5 12 4/60 7/111 58.08 2.87 121.2 0 0
in India 22 95 6/74 10/174 26.94 2.29 70.4 5 1
in New Zealand 7 35 8/76 11/140 19.25 2.30 50.1 3 1
in Pakistan 2 2 1/34 2/157 125.50 3.09 243.0 0 0
in West Indies 5 14 4/54 4/101 42.50 2.54 100.2 0 0

Out of his five best bowling figures in Tests, four came overseas. His career best came against New Zealand in 1976, when he spun India to a win in Auckland with a magnificent eight-for.

Prasanna's five best bowling figures in Tests

Overs BPO Mdns Runs Wkts Econ Inns Opposition Ground Start Date
23.0 8 5 76 8 2.47 3 v New Zealand Auckland 24 Jan 1976
31.0 6 14 74 6 2.38 3 v Australia Chennai 24 Dec 1969
40.0 6 11 94 6 2.35 3 v New Zealand Dunedin 15 Feb 1968
33.4 8 9 104 6 2.32 3 v Australia Brisbane 19 Jan 1968
34.0 8 6 141 6 3.11 2 v Australia Melbourne 30 Dec 1967

As Prasanna turned 80 on May 22, 2020, plenty of tributes came the way of the legendary spinner, including one from his long-time teammate Bishen Singh Bedi.