When Bishan Singh Bedi cooked dinner for Pakistani cricketers
“As he reaches a milestone in life I join thousands of cricketers, fans, teammates and well-wishers in wishing him good health and happiness in the days ahead”
Bishan Singh Bedi once invited Pakistani cricketers Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Mudassar Nazar and others for dinner in Australia and cooked delectable food for the 25-odd guests, says a new book.
Bedi turned 75 on Saturday and his former teammates, friends and admirers from the cricket fraternity came together to pay unique tribute to him through a festschrift of sorts.
In his piece, ‘Bish: Taking us from Club Class to World Class’, former first-class cricketer Venkat Sundaram among other things mentions a culinary trait of Bedi.
"It was a bright, sunny and warm afternoon in Burnie in Tasmania, Australia, when the phone rang: Bishan Bedi was calling. After the usual pleasantries, he informed me that the visiting Pakistan team would be in Launceston to play a match against Tasmania, and he would like to invite them for dinner," Sundaram, who was also team manager for India in the 1990s, recalls.
He told Bedi it was a very thoughtful idea and asked how he could help.
"He said that he was about 70 kilometres away and we would meet at my friend's place in Launceston, and he would get the ingredients and some utensils. We would all combine our cooking talents and toss up something palatable," he writes in the book, edited by Sachin Bajaj and published by Roli Books.
"Bedi has always had more than a passing interest in cooking, and I was confident, having sampled his offerings, that the food would be more in the realms of delectable than palatable," he adds.
And it turned out to be a great experience.
"Here we were, three families, all hard at it - chopping, washing, marinating, frying, steaming, blending - for more than five hours. Often, as the available pots and pans were not large enough to cook for the nearly 25 guests, the same dish had to be prepared two or three times," Sundaram says.
The cooking was complete around seven in the evening and left all of them exhausted.
"Okay, now let's get the drinks table ready and clean all the glasses," announced Bedi.
Sundaram calls it an "absolutely enjoyable 'do' with the affable Pakistani players, including several legends like Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Mudassar Nazar, Shafqat Rana and Iqbal Qasim".
"All were relaxed and at home, millions of miles away in Australia. There was laughter, jokes, toasts and stories. Above all, the quiet elegance and care of Bish was written all over," he writes.
"This, an effort to reach out to friends and fellow cricketers in a foreign land, defying steep odds to create a culinary experience - in many ways, these epitomise Bish. Warm hearted, brazen, friendly but clear-thinking encapsulates the man," Sundaram writes.
Recalling their playing days, Sundaram says, “It was in two matches that I particularly saw, at first hand the class of Bishan Bedi. In one of those games I was a spectator while in the other I was a teammate.
“The first incident that comes to mind was in a Test match where India was playing against Bill Lawry’s team at Delhi. The Australians were very aggressive and talented. I was keen to see the battle between the Aussie batsmen and the Indian spinners. It was breathtaking to watch, the quick footed Ian Chappel and Keith Stackpole, not to mention my favorite Doug Walters. The spinners were under the pump but they fought back. Doug Walters came into bat and suddenly the crowd woke up to a stirring on drive and a majestic cover drive.
“Bish was bowling on home turf and coming under fire. How will he now respond? It was then that I witnessed a piece of sheer magic. Bish went to the edge of the bowling crease and bowled an armer. Walters went back, and across, expecting an orthodox spinning delivery. He shouldered arms, but the ball, seemingly, had a mind of its own and crashed and uprooted the off stump.”
“On the second occasion, Bish was captain of North Zone when against Tony Lewis’ team he similarly uprooted Barry Woods off stump with an arm ball, the batsman offering no stroke. To reduce experienced top order Test stars to fidgeting, nervous, batsmen was in itself a reflection of Bish’s class.
“I asked him then whether it was the best arm ball he had delivered? He thought for a while before saying, “No Venks. In England with its heavy atmosphere the ball moves much more, and my arm ball swings in a lot.”
Sundaram further writes, “Once his playing days were over, Bish tried his hand at administration but the exercise was never going to succeed. Administrators, like politicians, are often wily and shrewd, words not associated with Bish... Bish has coached extensively and has been with several first-class teams, Punjab and Delhi have won the Ranji Trophy under his tutelage and many a Test star has to be grateful and indebted to Bish for his sagacious advice."
“An enigma wrapped in a mystery” was how his bowling was once described. His no nonsense attitude has often hit the headlines, but behind his loud roar, lies a gentle heart and a soul that genuflects in reverence to the game that has made him world famous. And woe betide anyone that wants to hurt his sentiments to the sport.”
“As he reaches a milestone in life I join thousands of cricketers, fans, teammates and well-wishers in wishing him good health and happiness in the days ahead. More strength to your arm Bish.”
The book, ‘The Sardar of Spin: A Celebration of the Art and of Bishan Singh Bedi’, has a foreword by Kapil Dev, messages from Sunil Gavaskar, E.A.S. Prasanna and Farookh Engineer, and contributions by Neha Bedi (his daughter), Sachin Tendulkar, B.S. Chandrasekhar, Venkat Sundaram, Ramchandra Guha, Anil Kumble, Greg Chappell and many more.
(Extract reproduced with permission from Venkat Sundaram, Consulting Editor, 'Sardar of Spin')