Sports

Bowled over by Bedi: A tribute to the cricketing legend

Vijay Lokapally | Updated on October 14, 2021

Bishen Singh Bedi   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

On his 75 birthday, several stalwarts from the cricketing world came together to pen their thoughts on the life and art of the left-arm orthodox spinner. Sardar of Spin is a glorious celebration of Bedi’s achievements

Watching Bishan Singh Bedi in action, many youngsters were lured into believing that bowling was such an easy vocation. Just amble up to the stumps, roll your arm and produce a magical ball. To batsmen too, Bedi appeared a harmless bowler until they came to grief when facing him.

Many of those who played with and against him decided to come together and present the bowling legend with a gift on his 75 birthday - a book and an evening of nostalgia

This was a unique venture. Some iconic players were requested to contribute their thoughts on Bedi. Also, efforts were made to surprise Bedi with the gift - a book on his career, full of anecdotes, from cricketers he admired and from cricketers who admired him. The time to compile this book was short but Bedi’s iconic stature meant that every stakeholder got into the act quickly without hesitation.

 

As Priya Kapoor of Roli Books explains, “Bishan Singh Bedi is a cricketing legend. However, the love and respect he has garnered off the field is just as commendable. He does not mince his words, is generous to a fault, puts the game above all with incredible integrity. It was an honour for Roli Books to have published a book to celebrate Bedi the legend and the man.”

The book was put on a fast track to meet the deadline - Bedi’s 75th birthday on September 25.

Aptly titled `The Sardar Of Spin’, it is a delightful collection from the cricketing world. The Foreword from former India captain Kapil Dev is straight from the heart and Sachin Tendulkar opens the innings with a chapter that recalls his association with the left-arm spinner. There is no dearth of praise for Bedi the player and the man but the most heart-warming tribute comes from Neha Bedi, his doting daughter.

When Bedi suffered a heart-attack that needed a by-pass surgery, Neha stood by her father like a rock. Her chapter reflects on the beautiful relationship that she shares with Bedi. “I am not going to write about Bishan Singh Bedi, the cricketer. I am writing about Bishan Singh Bedi, my father,” she puts it in simple words.

“Dad was against raising ‘entitled children’. He used to say, if you can’t earn it, don’t use it. At that time, I felt so much resentment towards the way he brought us up.`Never indulge in self-pity,’ he would say whenever I felt short-changed by him. My brother Angad and I were the first victims of our dad’s intensive training regime.’ Bellowing, “Jaagte jaagte bhagte rehna, bhaagte bhaagte jaagte rehna” he would scream at us `Move your bloody legs.’

With an extremely tough exterior, Dad is the softest on the inside. Happy seventy-fifth, Dad. you are, and will always remain, my `Topman’.

You are tempted to revisit the magnificent tribute by Neha everytime you pick this book from the shelf.

All rounder Kapil Dev is honest when he writes, “I wondered what could I write? How can I pen my thoughts on someone who is larger than life? He was my first captain. I can speak endlessly on him. It is difficult to write about your hero. Bishan paaji is a great human being. A gregarious man who would laugh at himself. He had a sharp memory. Once I was surprised when Bishan paaji reeled off the playing XI of his debut match in Ranji trophy.

Bishan paaji was one of the selectors to pick the team for the 1983 World Cup. He was also one of the selectors when a year later I was dropped from the Test team after we lost the match to England at Delhi.”

Kapil also shares his fanboy moment when he could not take his eyes off Bedi when he saw him for the first time in a Duleep Trophy match - collars up and shirt buttons open.

With contributions from stalwarts like GR Viswanath, Michael Brearley, Mike Coward, Abbas Ali Baig, Anil Kumble, Michael Holding, and a brilliant piece by his favourite student, Murali Kartik, the book is a treasure trove for fans of Bedi. Kartik writes, “The first interaction with Paaji was also a window into the mind of this quite amazing man - simple, uncomplicated and rock solid. Just like bowling.”

Kartik also brings to light a never-heard-before anecdote of Bedi bowling to a modern great. “I can never forget his spell to Steve Waugh at the National Stadium nets back in 1996 when the Australian team was in Delhi for a one-off Test. He told the Australian manager that he would get Waugh out LBW with his 15th delivery. The first six or seven deliveries were very short, and he got pulled repeatedly. He came to me and said, `Look son, at least I’m getting hit on the same side of the ball which means that my seam is going fine.’ Then just as Waugh thought he had mastered the veteran, Paaji slipped in an-arm ball that hit his pads before he could bring his bat down for the cut-shot. Just like that Paaji had claimed another high-profile victim, at the ripe old age of fifty.”

Having known the legendary Bedi since 1981, and interacted with him during different phases of growing up as a cricket reporter, I can say with conviction that he is a rare “guide, friend and philosopher. A cricket Guru in every sense.. The book is a worthy tribute to celebrate the life and art of a classic spinner of all times.

And yes, he was pleasantly surprised to see the book in hand - the cover a throwback to the golden times when spin bowling was a critical component of the game.

The Sardar Of Spin: A celebration of the life and art of Bishan Singh Bedi

(Vijay Lokapally is an independent sports journalist and author. His latest book was The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma story)

Published on October 14, 2021

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