RIP, Bishan Singh Bedi. India has lost a cricketing legend, a spin master, a wise voice, and a conscience-keeper with his passing.
Singh Bishan Bedi was in the habit of calling early in the morning. He was going to talk largely about what had kept him awake all night. Bedi held administrators and cricket players to a high level; he was not one to be easily impressed or to suffer fools.
On the field, Bedi was a cunning left-arm spinner, but off the field, he was a straightforward romantic who genuinely felt that cricket was a precious island that should be ruled by the values of meritocracy and fair play.
Bedi had just had knee surgery two years prior, following a heart attack and brain stroke. Following a protracted illness and hospital stay, Bedi, 77, departed on Monday. Wife Anju, son Angad, and daughter Neha survive him.
India has lost a great cricket player, a wise man, and a fan of the game with his passing. Wife Anju has been Bedi’s rock for the past two years, supporting him through his convalescence and rehabilitation. “The game is never over until the last ball is bowled,” he would remind the boys.
Bishan Singh Bedi, legendary India spinner, dies at 77
Physicians would frequently tell me, “Bishan continues to fight courageously,” she would remark, watching while Bedi sat in a wheelchair and nodded.
The Bedis had taken up residence in “Cricket Abode,” a farmhouse in Mehrauli, far from the bustle of the capital. The Sardar of Spin was bedridden after being admitted to the hospital; he had difficulty speaking and needed assistance to walk, but his eyes would light up when his wife gave him a cricket ball.
Those legendary wrists’ dexterity and power had not been diminished by age or illness. He would spin the ball vigorously while he sat in his garden, and it would whirl in the still evening air.
Throughout his professional career, Bedi’s trademark was the excitement created by the whizzing ball on cricket grounds across the globe. It was a siren to be on high alert for the close-in fielders and wicketkeeper, and an early warning of oncoming danger for the batsmen. It was difficult to read the flight or the faint spin. In addition to 1,560 scalps at 21 in first-class cricket, the deceit would earn him 266 wickets at a 28.71 ratio in Test matches.
Tony Lewis, the commentator and cricket player, would have said that a clockmaker would have been happy to set Bedi in motion: a well balanced mechanism with silent cogs and a hand that sweeps in smooth arcs over the display.
India’s first away Test victories in England and the West Indies came about thanks in large part to Bedi in 1970–71. He shared 853 wickets in all with Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. They would provide India a model for playing Test cricket and an international identity if they reduced fast bowling to a formality.
Generations of new cricketers would be inspired to turn the ball by these pioneers, and even now, when world-class pacers have emerged in the nation, India is still regarded as a fascinating land of spinners.
An avid reader and astute political observer, Bedi got along just as well with Punjabi-speaking North Indian players as he did with his English county counterparts. He was Bish at Lord’s and “Paaji,” the enduring big brother, in Kotla.
He went after the English establishment as captain of India, accusing John Lever of using Vaseline. He is known in Delhi cricket circles as the man who broke Mumbai’s monopoly.
Possessing a keen sense of humor, he would refer to a parsimonious Mumbai cricket player as “Crime.” He would laugh and say, “Crime never pays,” when you inquired why.
Even after retiring, he would continue to have misgivings about Mumbai and its cricketers. He used to joke that his actor son Angad had moved to enemy territory when he moved to Mumbai.
The Delhi players still regarded Bedi as the head of the family even years after he retired. When Bedi was walking the honours after an ODI at Kotla a few years ago, Virat Kohli noticed him past the boundary.
He and Shikhar, the other child from Delhi, jumped over the hoarding of advertisements inside the stadium and touched their feet. At Kotla, Bedi’s feet really received the most touches.
However, as a man of strong moral convictions, Bedi requested to be removed from Kotla when the cricket administrators in the capital proposed renaming the stadium in honor of the late Union minister, Arun Jaitley. He would write in a bitter letter: “The administrators’ place is in their glass cabins.
” I’ve heard that the late Arun Jaitley was a skilled politician. Therefore, Parliament, not a cricket ground, is the place where people will remember him in the future.
He was the respected moral voice of India in Pakistan. A picture of him is in the living room of his close buddy, the former captain of Pakistan, Mushtaq Mohammad, in Birmingham, England. It is merely a game, Champion.
Play hard and win, but at 630 p.m., I want you to come to my room for a drink. One of the best individuals I’ve ever met, that’s how he was, Muhammad would tell The Indian Express.
Bedi, who was always up for a good battle, challenged the system by siding with the underdog. But he continued to be a proud Indian while doing this.
During the peak of the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, Bedi reconsidered relocating to his Mehrauli property. A Sikh family should not have been in such a remote place. Bedi, uncertain about what to do, considered selling the land and relocating to Amritsar.
Seeking guidance, he approached a senior bureaucrat stationed at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The bureaucrat told Bishan that if I were you, I would flee the nation. “I didn’t say a word,
but I was fuming inside,” Bedi would recall the encounter. I drove off without saying “dua salaam,” got home, and informed my wife that the “For Sale” sign will be taken down from the property. “I don’t care if I die.” I’m not leaving this nation. I assured her, ‘I have every right to be here.
Bedi was that. Though he was dubious about franchise impact and T20 cricket, he was upbeat about the state of India and Indian cricket. However, he had a grievance over the political correctness of his fellow cricket players. He would respond, “They don’t speak out, buzdil hain saare,” when he got the calls in the morning. Indian cricket has lost its conscience-keeper at a time when the sport is at a crossroads, balancing its priorities, and perplexed by the T20 influence. It has lost the man who would stay up late watching the highs of the national team and lose sleep over the state of Indian cricket.
He would be grateful for Rohit Sharma’s team and the deferential Delhi youngster he previously trained, especially as India is currently enjoying a remarkable run in the World Cup. We will miss Bedi Saab and his early calls.
Living a vibrant life, Bishan Singh Bedi genuinely cared for his people.
This passage from “Mid-Wicket Tales” highlights Bedi’s warm-hearted nature, his affection for players Pataudi and Jaisimha, tales from his travels around Pakistan and the West Indies, and his insane helicopter ride in Guyana.
On Monday, October 23, Bishan Singh Bedi (77), one of the finest cricketers in India, passed away. This passage is taken from S. Giridhar and V. J. Raghunath’s 2014 book Mid-Wicket Tales, which will be reissued with Speaking Tiger in an enlarged and improved version. Bedi’s warm-hearted nature is highlighted in the book’s chapter titled “Bishan Singh Bedi: Of Large Hearts and Large Stories.”
Australian cricket historian Gideon Haigh provided a kind review of Mid-wicket Tales a few months after it was released. He also forwarded it to the renowned batsman Bishan Singh Bedi, a close friend of his in Delhi. I (Giridhar) promptly sent Bedi a copy as requested by Gideon. After two days, my phone rang. It was Bedi telling me he enjoyed the book in an excited and distinctive drawl.
Have you read it already, I asked him? In response, he said that although he had only read a few pages, he felt compelled to congratulate us right away. I emailed Raghunath to introduce him. When Raghu was visiting his daughter in Delhi, he was enjoying dinner at Bedi’s farmhouse before anyone could whip the bails off to a Bedi delivery!
We were halfway through writing our second book, From Mumbai to Durban, which would tell the tales of India’s greatest Test matches to tell the history of Indian Test cricket, when Raghu first met Bedi. We were contacting journalists and cricket players at the time as part of our research to acquire their first-hand opinions, experiences, and fascinating tidbits that would add flair to the story.
Our first meeting with Bedi took place that evening. He had already decided to help us, so we didn’t need to convince him. You will see how much the legendary left-arm spinner contributed to the book if you have perused it. He just gave. I doubt that he even recalls.
Floods in November 2015 destroyed Chennai and left many people without a place to live. Homes were destroyed and lives lost. Delhi-based Bedi was growing increasingly concerned about his buddies in Chennai. He contacted me, unable to reach these folks in Chennai, to inquire about the safety of his cricketing buddies, W. V. Raman, Srikkanth, and a few others, as well as his new acquaintance, Raghu. Although I had to confess that I was unaware of the cricket players, I reassured him that Raghu was secure.
Inconsolable, Bedi called off to check in with some other friends. Because of his genuine concern for his people, Bedi is wired that way.
A few months later, under more pleasant circumstances, I received a call one evening at nine o’clock. This is Bishan. I am at the Leela, in your town. Would you want to join us for dinner? Living close to The Leela, I was at his door in a matter of minutes. Bedi hugged me to welcome me.
Then, with a cunning look, he gestured for me to go to the dark corner of the room. Bedi’s protégé in many aspects, Sunil Joshi, a former left-arm spinner for India, was leaning against the wall. Like a good South Indian, I told Bedi that I was done with supper long before he got on the phone. “All right, have a beer,” he said. Then, leaning back in his opulent chair and massaging his hands, he remarked, “When Sunil dropped in to visit
I intended to give you a call so you could ask him for other stories as well. Of course, Sunil is a charming raconteur with a cunning sense of humor.
He shared other beautiful anecdotes with us at a later time that you will also read in the book. Bedi looked great at The Leela that evening. He talked about how much he loved sportsmen like Pataudi and Jaisimha and how sports should be played with a certain attitude.
He told us stories about the dangerous helicopter flight in Guyana, about an anxious Jaisimha who always smoked like a chimney before it was his turn to bat, and about the Indian tours to Pakistan and the West Indies.
Later on, he told us more lovely stories, which you will also read in the book. Bedi looked stunning that night at The Leela. He remarked about how much he admired athletes like Pataudi and Jaisimha and how a specific mindset should be applied when playing sports. anecdotes of the perilous helicopter ride in Guyana, the nervous Jaisimha who always smoked like a chimney before he batted, and the Indian tours to Pakistan and the West Indies were among the anecdotes he told us.
I emailed Bedi as the manuscript for our book, From Mumbai to Durban, was coming to a close, asking him to check a few of the anecdotes and details he had shared with us.
I wanted to be sure that Raghu and I wouldn’t be misquoting him. Lala Amarnath once boasted that she could perform 10,000 skips with the skipping rope in 30 minutes, which was one of those really ridiculous tales.
We were worried that we might have entered the wrong number. It was easier to communicate with Bishan over the phone because he is not very prompt while emailing. He interrupted us as we asked the same question again, saying, “No, it’s 30,000 that Lala claimed, not 10,000 skips.” Thus, what we initially believed to be a tall tale only grew taller as we went
That is the pleasure of knowing Bedi. We have a good feeling that he is nice with practically everyone after shaking hands. That heart is big and giving and it overflows.