Bishan Singh Bedi, a great player and a great captain
He had the courage and confidence to bowl to former England skipper Tony Lewis in the nets to solve his problem against spin, even as England were playing India
The greatest left-arm spinner of the 1960s and 70s, who took 266 wickets at an average of 28.71 for India, Bishan Singh Bedi was what you would call cricket royalty. His 1,500 wickets in first class cricket remain the highest for an Indian. His action was as iconic as that of West Indian pace bowling legend Michael Holding, who many have compared to a Rolls Royce. His control, dip and spin left the greatest of batsmen dumbfounded. In the words of former England great Jim Laker, “My idea of paradise is watching Ray Lindwall and Bishan Bedi bowling at Lords.”
The 'Sardar of Spin' was not only a great player but also a great captain who stood for his players, paid them from his pocket if need be, and fought administrators on their behalf. He was the one who took a stand against the "intimidating" West Indies and the slippery "Vaseline tainted" English bowlers.
As a man, he was large-hearted and gracious, untainted by greed or narrow nationalism. He had the courage and confidence to bowl to former England skipper Tony Lewis in the nets to sort out his problems against spin, even as England were playing against India. And it was his gem of a suggestion to Pakistani left-arm spinner Iqbal Qasim — “the most deadly ball on a turner is the one which does not turn” — which helped Pakistan win against India in Bangalore in 1987.
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It was his gem of a suggestion to Pakistani left-arm spinner Iqbal Qasim — “the most deadly ball on a turner is the one which does not turn” — which helped Pakistan win against India in Bangalore in 1987
As captain and coach who took the nondescript and underachieving Delhi and Punjab teams to the heights of domestic glory, Bedi is considered a legend.
As a plain-speaking former great who always spoke his mind and never kowtowed to authorities in the manner of many other Indian cricket stalwarts, he was in a league of his own. He spoke his mind against the controversial bowling action of Sri Lankan spin legend Mutthiah Muralitharan —"Muralitharan didn't take 800 wickets, those were runouts" — fought what he saw as the corrupt Delhi District Cricket Association, and stood for Indian farmers during the farmers' agitation.
Where some other cricketers seemed to have sold their soul for money, IPL and TV, 'Bish' remained reclusive and proud, always retaining his conscience and love for the pristine values of the game, a perpetual thorn in the side of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
As tributes pouring in from across the world show, Bedi was surely our Muhammad Ali.