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Bishan Singh Bedi, 75, outspoken moral centre of our times | Cricket News – Times of India

September 25, 2021

This is not a cricketing tribute to an old-world classicist, though they say, you could never tire of hearing of the poetry of his craft. A former colleague once facing him in a festival game, spoke wide-eyed of the whirring hiss the ball made in flight and how it hung in the air, simply refusing to descend. Bishan Singh Bedi was 54 then, his playing days long over and he was still having a good laugh. On Saturday, he turned 75.
Nor is this an account of the many famous Bedi stories, best accompanied, we’ve also heard, with his famous sundown tipple. This is a mere toe in the pool trying to put the sardar in current-day context: How would you, in less than 600 words, present Indian sport’s original rebel and romantic, to today’s lucrative cricket ecosystem which may not have time for him? Simply, in an age when silence is perhaps valued more than outspokenness and where values and beliefs have taken a beating, the man has reemerged as a moral centre that our sport so badly requires.
There is a then and now to Bedi, and they often merge making him this strange hoary legend of our times, a rare, one of a kind, hard to fit in any convenient slot, equally difficult to put away. Bedi’s biggest contribution, in a sense, is his standing as arguably India’s first modern sportsman. His craft was old-school, its spirit harked to an earlier era, it would get found out as the demands of the game would change.
But his greatness lay beyond. It lay in his straddling both worlds with a progressiveness that was both educated and pushed by an earthy honesty. There was a forward-looking temper not necessarily in the way the world has eventually turned out but how it ideally should have. Till date, he steadfastly lives by that dictum, even if it may have cost him his share of the pie. In a largely transformed world, he fiercely holds on to a forgotten socialist ethos.
Like his sublime bowling, his ideals too stand left of centre. If Sunil Gavaskar taught us Indians that it was okay to think of the self and not be apologetic about it, Bedi thought first of the collective. When sky-high player fees are a given today, top-class touring facilities rightly the norm, few would know that Bedi first waded into the fight with the board for better remuneration for players. His run-ins with cricket’s administration for players rights are stuff of legend, something that would have left a lesser person weary and a casual observer mildly suspicious of his intentions.
We belonged to the last category – consuming the sport and schooled, largely, not to question the status quo. Bedi’s was perhaps the first sporting name to endear itself to an early 70s kid. In an era where radio ruled, it easily rolled off the tongue. Add to that, he was the boss man, a fiery-eyed, sparsely-bearded, loose-shirted man in a turban. India’s captain.
Yet, as the years passed, it was his outspokenness and differences with cricket’s establishment that often threatened to disturb our comfortable ennui as a winning team was forged. Didn’t his irrepressible ways not spur the rebel inside all of us? Success – and the commerce that follows — inures the best of us from the fight. As ‘Team India’s’ success came, he was isolated, if not totally discarded, only belatedly recalled when a contrarian voice was required.
But Bedi has always been his own person – difficult, complex and yet, simple and endearing, unputdownable. No one speaks out, Bedi never held back. So, while there may be a then and now to Bedi, there isn’t a before or after.

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