He praised generously, criticized without hiding the hard side and laughed with abandon
In the slow art of spinning, Bishan Singh Bedi remains a high priest. Arguably the best left arm spinner to adorn cricket, Bedi, along with BS Chandrasekhar, EAS Prasanna and S. Venkatraghavan, has formed a magical quartet of varying strength.
It is a reflection of Bedi’s larger than life stature that although he was one of the Big Four, he was considered a leader of this unit and, at times, considered the oldest as well. In fact, it is only on Saturday (September 25) that he will join the ’75 Club ‘of which his former teammates are already members, Prasanna being the oldest at 81!
Put on many hats
Bedi has donned many hats, as a player, captain under which Kapil Dev made his Test debut, or later as a coach. But Bedi wasn’t just involved in cricket. He had a worldview and his friendships transcended nationalities, as evidenced by his lasting bond with former Pakistani captain Mushtaq Mohammed. As a mentor, Bedi was both tough and fatherly in his affections, a facet that wards like Sunil Joshi, Murali Kartik and Englishman Monty Panesar would vouch for.
Read also: Bishen Singh Bedi – The man who stayed in touch with his inner child
The rules of the game were sacred and if broken like when England bowler John Lever was convicted of using petroleum jelly on the ball in 1977, Bedi has expressed his opinion. Decades later, during the Sydney Test 2008 “Monkeygate” controversy, he texted Indian skipper Anil Kumble: “As captain, make a decision you’ll be proud of when you look back in the air. story.”
His deliveries may have seemed like polite questions, but they were actually euphemisms that masked the fatal conclusion that awaited the Willow Bearer. In life, Bedi, of ‘how are you son?’ query, could also reveal a sharp tongue. He praised generously, criticized without hiding the harsh side, laughed with abandon and his humor was ironic.
Once at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, Bedi asked Prasanna, “How was Calcutta? Prasanna had briefly moved to the Bengal capital and as he answered Bedi cut off: dadagiri? ”There was an instinctive laugh at the obvious reference to Kolkata Dad – Sourav Ganguli.
Quest for perfection
Bedi saw sport as both an art and a quest for perfection. This obsession led him to question Muttiah Muralitharan’s bowling action when he said, “He looks like a good javelin thrower.” Perceived as anti-establishment, Bedi ruffled feathers when he asked the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) to remove his name from a stand at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground after his nomenclature changed to Arun Jaitley Stadium and the statue of the late political leader has also been installed.
In a universe with blurred borders between sport, commerce, politics and showbiz, Bedi remains a return to a utopian past. And while he records 75 years while recovering from a health crisis, here he is, wishing him many more summers.