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VIJAY LOKAPALLY
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interview Bishan Singh Bedi speaks his mind on cricket losing its image and his favourite players

Happy innings Bishan Singh Bedi
Happy innings Bishan Singh Bedi

T wenty20, in Bedi's opinion, is a key reason for cricket suffering a dent in its image. “Cricket is no more a nice and leisurely game. Ball-tampering, match-fixing, neutral umpires, match referee accompany captains for the toss, all because players were over-stretching.” In the world of rogues, he picks a few players who are an exception to the rule, players who bring dignity. “Sachin (Tendulkar), Anil (Kumble), VVS (Laxman), Rahul (Dravid).” Bedi, known to speak his mind, always honest, harsh for some, but realistic to many, continues an active association with the game.

If he had to pick one player for enriching the game and taking it to greater heights! “I'll pick two,” Bedi says. “Tiger (Pataudi) for the grace and glamour he brought to cricket. He was royal and yet, so humble. And Gary Sobers. He was the ultimate. He excelled in whatever he did. There will never be another Sobers, never another Don (Bradman).”

He is adept at analysing the game in the cool comforts of a TV studio and loves sweating it out on the field. At 65, he is busy coaching the Jammu and Kashmir team, convinced that there is ample talent in the Valley waiting for recognition. Recently, a book on Bedi, titled “Bishan, Portrait of A Cricketer” with a superb foreword by Anil Kumble, was recently launched in Delhi. In fact, Kumble, in his tribute to one of the finest spinners in world cricket history, comes very close to portraying Bedi as he is.

Kumble writes, “Bedi is unique. As a cricketer, as a person and as one of the most pleasing sights you can hope to see at the bowling crease. He enjoys his cricket, enjoys the poetry of the game and hopes to see only good things on the field of play. He has always focused on the unwritten laws of cricket, on the importance of playing the game the way it should be.”

So true! Bedi, ever the traditionalist, has been a role model to every aspiring spinner. For years, he has aired his opinion most fearlessly, taken on the administration even after his playing days were over. The book, penned by Suresh Menon and published by Penguin, highlights Bedi the cricketer.

Kumble brings out Bedi the philosopher best. He recalls, “When the infamous `Monkeygate controversy erupted during the Sydney Test of 2008, I received a message from Bishan Bedi in India. “As a captain,” he wrote, “Take a decision you'll be proud of when you look back on history.” Trust Bedi to have made this effort to guide a cricketer he loves.

Written in a racy style, there are some captivating passages in the book which emphasise his attitude towards the game. “I get a greater thrill out of beating a batsman such as Viv Richards in the air than in clean bowling a tail-ender,” Bedi is quoted in the opening chapter.

There are sections on Bedi's role in the rise of North as a cricket power and his battles with the administration, in Delhi and Punjab. If only we had elaborate views from stalwarts such as Kapil Dev and Mohinder Amarnath to make the story complete.

Even if too figurative, the book is a delightful tribute to Bedi, the artist. But Bedi, the raconteur, is missing in this book. For that, we will have to wait for his autobiography.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

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