IT was in 2005 that I got one of the biggest assignments of my nascent career as a sports reporter in HT – to interview India spinner Bishan Singh Bedi. I was quite nervous as my seniors had warned me about Bishan Sir’s short temper.
As I reached ‘Cricket Abode’, Bedi’s farmhouse in Mehrauli, my heart was pounding as I was ten minutes late. Knowing that he was a strict disciplinarian, I braced myself to hear a mouthful from him. Bedi bhaji entered the room with a serious look on his face and, sure enough, the first thing he asked me was why I was late.
Before I could craft a reply, he said: “Youngsters nowadays should learn the importance of being on time.” Those precious words from the legendary spinner are still etched in my memory.
Bedi was one of the greatest left-arm spinners India has ever produced. He was also someone who was very vocal about his views, and never afraid to take on the establishment– cricketing as well as political. His 266 Test wickets and 1,500-plus haul in domestic cricket bear testimony to his bowling prowess.
The spin wizard used to tease, torment and ensnare batsmen with his magical flight and the prodigious turn – something which cannot be quantified in an article or even a book.
In an era when India used to play about a couple of bilateral Test series in a year, he captained India in 22 Tests. He was part of the Great Indian Spin Quartet that comprised Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. Whereas all other leading teams had a battery of fast bowlers, India used to rely heavily on its spin bowlers to win matches. Off the field, Bedi was equally domineering with his views. He could be curt but was always batting for the underdog – for his lesser privileged Delhi Ranji Trophy teammates. He was also critical about the manner in which IPL treated players.
At a time when former cricketers kept praising and placating the BCCI for lucrative commentary assignments, the Sardar of Spin would never shy away from taking the moral ground. No wonder, West Indian fast bowling Great Michael Holding called Bedi “the greatest moral voice in Indian cricket”. That moral voice has gone silent. RIP Bishan Singh Bedi!