An early memory of Bishen Singh Bedi for me is my cricketing friends remembering their camp at Srinagar where the legendary spinner made them run and run in the bitter cold, as for him fitness had no substitute.
Today, 25th September, on his birthday let us explore some relatively unknown trivia about the legend for whom Jim Laker had once said, “My idea of paradise is Lord’s in the sunshine, with Ray Lindwall bowling from one end and Bishen Bedi from the other”.
Recently in a cricketing ceremony, the western stand of Feroz Shah Kotla stadium was named after Bedi (and the eastern stand after Jimmy Amarnath). Indian Skipper Virat Kohli spoke on the occasion about the legend. Virat said that currently he was extremely fit, but earlier in his U-15, U-17 and U-19 cricket days he did not understand the importance of fitness and used to run away from Bedi Sir as he made them train very hard. Virat thanked Bedi and said that because of this attitude of Bedi’s, so many have succeeded in life.
In response, Bedi however said that he wished other Indian cricketers followed their captain’s example and concentrated on fitness as he felt sad that on TV itself he could see the bulges in the stomachs of some of the Indian cricketers. Bedi also expressed sadness at deterioration of Feroz Shah Kotla which he had wanted to be a tourist spot like Lords but had not improved. He reminisced about a funny instance in his cricketing career. As Captain in an India-England Test match at the Kotla, he had stationed a security guard outside the dressing room so that fans could not get in. To their surprise however the Hon’ble President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed came there as there were no proper toilet facilities in the stadium and he wanted to use the bathroom of the dressing room. Bedi said sadly that situation had not changed even now and facilities were abysmal.
This outspokenness has been a hallmark of Bedi. Whether calling Murali a javelin thrower and labelling his 800 wickets as 800 run-outs, painting Harbhajan with the same brush or coming down heavily on T20 Cricket for spoiling technique of youngsters Bedi has never held back. As per him T20 cricket was not only suffocating but the most vulgar expression of cricket and he went to the extent of calling IPL as a platform for money laundering. Indeed, the feisty Sardarji has never minced his words and once after a disappointing loss he said that “the entire Indian team should be dumped into the Pacific”. Currently he is one of the most active twitter celebrities and continues to remain outspoken and blunt.
For Bedi, Ranji trophy and 1st class cricket has no substitute and he himself as Ranji Skipper had taken Delhi to its 1st 2 Ranji trophy titles and as many as 4 Ranji Finals in the 1st 5 years of his captaincy. Bedi was also an English 1st class giant and only the 2nd Indian to play over 100 first class games in England with only Farokh Engineer having played more matches in England.
In test cricket, Bedi took 266 wickets in his 67 Test matches. He had 5 wickets in an innings 14 times and 10 wickets in a match once. He played only 10 ODIs and also had an extraordinary 1st class career in which he took over 1500 wickets. Statistics can however do no justice to him as a bowler, and his flight, guile and deception are spoken of with not just joy but with reverence as well. So was his action, which was relaxed and unhurried, allowing him to bowl long spells.
A relatively unknown information about Bedi is that while playing cricket for an International XI on a tour to Pakistan he came to know that a young girl in a Karachi hospital needed blood and the blood group being extremely rare (RH-O negative) the situation was very critical. Bedi, who had the same rare blood group, immediately went to the hospital to donate blood to the young girl who was saved. Pakistan TV covered the gesture and President Zia-ul-Haq saw the news on TV and gifted Bedi an expensive carpet.
Bedi’s son Angad was also a young cricketer but has chosen films as a career. Recently in a terrific web series Inside Edge he plays the captain of a T20 team and does a super job. Season one ends with his own team disowning him for his honesty and a rival team approaching him to be its captain. It is learnt that Angad is planning a biopic named Bish on his legendary dad which will focus on Bedi the cricketer and Bedi the person. Looking forward to it and learning more about this extraordinary person.
Happy birthday Bishen Singh Bedi.
The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films and music.
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