Celebration of the Sardar de Spin, on the occasion of its 75th anniversary
Bishan Singh Bedi loves to talk about Don Bradman. âOh, I never tire of talking about this man. He was an institution,â he said. Then there are many admirers who just can’t stop talking about Bedi, the man, the cricketer, and for those close to him, a little-known philosopher and guide.
On the eve of his 75th birthday, Bedi’s friends from the fraternity have come together to gift him with a book, which is essentially a collection of articles from some of the best-known names in the world of cricket. India‘s greatest cricketer Kapil Dev wrote the foreword, and Sachin Tendulkar relived his association with the master spinner in the book titled The Sardar of Spin and published by Roli Books.
“Among my earliest memories of Bishan paaji is the image of a player with his collars turned up and his shirt buttons open. I was a kid watching the Duleep Trophy game between North and Central. Bishan paaji was a star. I just couldn’t take my eyes off him. He wasn’t an athlete but he was always busy on the court, constantly doing one drill or another when not bowling or playing in the depths. I also remember playing an Iran Cup match and watching him bowling. He made a big impression on me with his capture as he stood in the briefs, and congratulated me on the half century I have done. The best part of this game was traveling from Delhi to Bangalore by train and enjoying his company for more than two days of travel. He had so much to share with us, the young people on the team, âwrites Kapil.
“A real sardar”
Kapil sums up Bedi the man well: “Critics would call Bishan paaji A rebel. Wrong. For me he was a cricketer who knew his rights well. He has stood up for cricketers, fighting for better game fees, travel facilities and accommodation. He faced the Delhi and District Cricket Association because he wanted players to be treated with respect. He did not hesitate to clash with representatives of the Council when he felt that they were not fair in their approach. For him, nothing was more important than the interests of the players and he was always ready to go any distance to achieve his goals. True, he suffered in the process, but always came out with his head held high. A true sardar who made Indian cricket immensely proud. “
READ ALSO – The romance of cricket seen by Bishan Singh Bedi
Among the galaxy or writers, Bedi’s daughter, Neha stands out for her beautifully written chapter which sets the tempo of the book. She is talking about Bishan Singh Bedi the father and not the cricketer. â’Observe and absorb’ is the motto of the Bishan Bedi Cricket Coaching Trust. It also runs deep in me because my father, Bishan Singh Bedi, never let me forget it. The person I am today is because I have observed him every step of the way – his warmth, his affection, his belief in gratitude and “shukrana”, his innate ability to always look up to the Almighty for spiritual strength – and absorbed what I heard him say to the boys when he was the coach: ‘Achha insaan banna seekho beta ji, cricket toh baad mein bhi aa jayegi. ‘ I’m not going to write about Bishan Singh Bedi the cricketer, I’m writing about Bishan Singh Bedi, my father. âNeha engages you with his simple writing.
Taste this reflection of his early years. âDad was against raising ‘allowed kids.’ He used to say, if you can’t earn it, don’t use it. At that time, I was so resentful of the way which he had raised us. Self-pity, “he would say whenever I felt wronged by him. My brother Angad and I were the first victims of our father’s intensive training. Barely four. or five years back then, we hated running. He used to hold our two hands and force us to run for hours in the park, bellowing, ‘Jaagte jaagte bhaagte rehna, bhaagte bhaagte jaagte rehna, ‘and we were yelling,’ Move your fucking legs! ‘”
Sachin Tendulkar revered Bedi, who coached the Indian team on tours to New Zealand and England in 1990. Tendulkar has fond memories of those tours and writes about his experience facing Bedi in the net. He remembers: “Bishan paaji was ahead of his time to prepare for matches. The nets were run in a serious manner, and he often joined in the bowling alley with the batsmen. Fiercely competitive, he would challenge the batsman to go out or hit him towards a specific target. It was a great spectacle when he won those battles. I had the privilege of facing him in the net and it was obvious he was still working on setting up a batsman, and I had to be at my best against him. While giving us close field workouts I remember how he could generate a lot of power through his shoulders and as a result just used his tremendous arm speed to give us a field workout with his hands. “
In a touching reference to their relationship, Tendulkar writes: âI always had the feeling that he treated me like his son. He greeted me like ‘Sashoo, my son’, and I could still feel the warmth in his tight embrace. . When one was down he would try to strike up a conversation and feel comfortable. I had a great time with him and his family, and it’s nice to see Angad succeed in the profession. that he chose. Anju I have treated me like his son on these tours and will forever cherish my association with paajifamily. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Bishan paaji for his contribution to Indian cricket and also to my development in the early stages of my career. He was an excellent teacher and a role model to be revered. Best wishes to him in this special phase of his life. “
There is a message from the legendary Sunil Gavaskar which adds to the value of the book. âUntil Wasim Akram came on the scene, Bishan Singh Bedi was the best left-handed pitcher I had seen. I guess it can now be said that Bishan Singh Bedi is the best left-arm spinner, and Wasim Akram , the best In the last test match of the triumphant tour from India to the West Indies in 1971, I was appalled and honored when, in Trinidad, Bishan Singh Bedi – who had become a father during the match – decided to name his firstborn, Gavas Inder Singh. Gavas Inder Singh completed his Golden Jubilee in April while Bishan Singh Bedi celebrates his 75th birthday in September. Thank you to the organizers of the celebration and the book publishers for having me given the opportunity to send my greetings and good wishes to both of you on this momentous occasion. “
READ ALSO – Sunil Gavaskar on the joy of India’s 1971 victory over England
Bowling legend Anil Kumble and Kartik Murali have been close to Bedi. Few conversations with Bedi would end without the mention of Kumble and Kartik. In a touching chapter, Kumble writes: âWe would have morning fitness and pitching sessions, with afternoons devoted to honing cricket skills. Bishan paaji was particular about the team having lunch together because he was convinced that this kind of bond between the players was essential. He believed that the team was like family and that a family that eats together stays together. At the same time, it allowed me to spend time with my family – I left home for the hotel, where the team stayed, early each morning, spent the day with my extended family and returned home after the evening training at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. To someone not yet twenty, that meant the world. “
Kumble recalls: “When the Sydney Test went as it did in 2008 and there were rumors that we were considering leaving the tour halfway through, Bishan paaji sent me a message. âSon, make a decision that history will remember you,â he said, adding, âDon’t make a hasty decision, don’t be ruled by emotion.â It was a great message; without saying it in so many words, he told me that I had a greater responsibility towards sport, towards our country. “
Reject Waugh at 50
Kartik was one of Bedi’s favorite students and this anecdote from him leaves you in awe of the great spinner. âI will never be able to forget his fate with Steve Waugh in the net at the national stadium in 1996 when the Australian team were in Delhi for a one-off test. Paaji had been ill a week earlier and had actually ended up in intensive care. But here he is, recently recovered, slightly overweight and completely disconnected from the bowling alley. As soon as he landed in the nets where I was playing, he offered the Australian manager to take Waugh out of LBW with his 15th delivery. The first six or seven deliveries were very short and he was shot several times. But he had always said that the greatest strength of a spinner was to have a big heart. It had to be a demonstration of this trait. Although he was hit with every ball he came up to me and said, “Listen son, at least I got hit on the same side of the ball, which means my seam is fine.” So just like Waugh thought he overpowered the veteran, Paaji slipped an arm ball that hit his pads before he could knock down his bat for the cut shot. Just like that Paaji had taken another high-profile victim at the age of fifty. “
The chapters contributed by former Test greats Vijay Merchant, Michael Holding, BS Chandrasekhar and Greg Chappell, former English skipper and friend Mike Brearley, Abbas Ali Baig, Raju Mukherji, V. Ramnarayan, Arunabha Sengupta, VV Kumar, Kirti Azad and Dr Narottam Puri make this a book to be cherished. Contributions from WP Sharma and BS Rattan, her early childhood friends, complete a fabulous list.
Journalists Qamar Ahmed, G. Rajaraman, Rajdeep Sardesai, Ayaz Memon and Clayton Murzello bring a new perspective with their writings. A statistics section at the end by HR Gopala Krishna is a treat. A chapter from his son Angad would have been the icing on the cake.
Released shortly to celebrate the occasion, Priya Kapoor of Roli Books calls it a “gift to an icon that is a family”.
As Neha says, “Happy seventy-fifth, daddy. You are and always will be my ‘Topman’.”