Bishan Singh Bedi: Audacious, Outspoken And Man With A Big Heart
MUMBAI, (IANS) – As the praise and memories of this great cricketer pours in from peers, current players, the Prime Minister, Bollywood and the ordinary citizen, here is a look at Bishan Singh Bedi.
After an embarrassing defeat to Australia in the Rothmans Cup in New Zealand in 1990, the manager of the Indian cricket team had famously declared to the media: “The entire team should be dumped into the Pacific.” That was Bishan Singh Bedi, never afraid to speak his mind, never one to mince words, and always ready to call a spade a spade.
It was his aura as one of the greatest left-arm spinners the game had seen, which gave Bedi the audacity to be upfront and undiplomatic at times. His words never had the loop and spin that Bedi put in his bowling. At the core of his heart, Bishan Singh Bedi was always anti-establishment and fought with the Board of Control for Cricket in India administrators for his teammates and fellow cricketers.
A key member of India’s famous spin quartet of the 1970s, left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi passed away on October 23, aged 77. Bedi played 67 Tests for India between 1967 and 1979, taking 266 wickets at an average of 28.71, apart from making 656 runs with the bat.
A tough taskmaster, Bedi may not have endeared himself to the various teams that he coached and managed — from the Delhi Ranji Trophy team to the senior national team, but as a spinner par excellence, he always commanded respect, coaching players like Maninder Singh and Murali Karthik among others.
It was his aura and abilities as a brilliant spinner and cricketer that on many occasions foreign teams would send their spinners to train under Bedi before unleashing them on the Indian team. Bedi was never economical or frugal in dispensing with his wisdom, whoever sought it, whether an Indian or otherwise.
But his teammates and rivals would also remember Bedi for his big heart as a cricketer, who was always ready to praise a batsman for attacking him and a spinner for his bowling skills. He was a man with a heart of gold.
Considered to be one of the greatest left-arm spinners to have played the game, Bedi was part of the famous Indian spin quartet alongside Erapalli Prasanna, B.S. Chandrashekar, and S. Venkataraghavan that won India many matches in both home and overseas conditions in the 1970s.
He also took seven wickets in 10 ODI matches, apart from captaining India in 22 Tests – with its most memorable wins coming in Melbourne and Sydney Tests in the 1977-78 tour of Australia.
Born in Amritsar, Punjab, Bedi began his first-class career with Northern Punjab, before moving to Delhi in the 1968-69 season, shortly after making his India Test debut in 1966. His left-arm spin bowling was known for the mastery he had of flight, loop, and spin, along with using subtle variations to outwit batters at the crease, with tiny adjustments made in his superior arm speed release points.
Bedi also led Delhi to winning the prestigious Ranji Trophy titles in 1978-79 and 1979-80, apart from two runners-up finishes. He also had a successful stint for Northamptonshire at county cricket in England. In 102 outings for the club between 1972 and 1977, Bedi bagged 434 wickets, the most by an Indian in the English County cricket circuit, while averaging 20.89.
Post his playing career, Bedi turned to coaching young cricketers, with Maninder Singh and Murali Kartik being his students to have played for India. He also coached Punjab, Delhi, and Jammu & Kashmir teams in domestic cricket, with Punjab winning the Ranji Trophy in 1992-93.
He was conferred with the Arjuna Award in 1969, the Padma Shri in 1970 and the C. K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.
Recently, Bedi had been unwell and had to undergo multiple surgeries, including one on the knee which happened in late September this year. He is survived by his wife Anju, and two children: Neha and Angad, a film actor.
Though he never said it aloud, one of Bedi’s regrets in his life was not seeing his son Angad Singh Bedi following in his footsteps as a great spinner.
One still distinctly remembers being sent to his office as a cub reporter for a story on a team of school kids that Bedi had taken on a tour of England in the late 1990s. Bedi gave all figures and spells bowled by Angad not as a doting father but as a spinner and coach, marveling at the loop he created and the spin he imparted to his deliveries.
“Best bowling figures in a match: Angad Singh Bedi, best bowling by a spinner in an innings: Angad Singh Bedi, most wickets on the tour: Angad Singh Bedi and best economy rate: Angad Singh Bedi,” he recited from a paper on which he had tabulated all spells and figures of the bowlers on that tour.
Bedi worked hard on his bowling and Angad did show a lot of promise early but then he found his interests elsewhere.