Bhalendra Singh, Raja
Distinguished cricketer and India’s Sports Executive (1919-1992)
Born on 19 August 1919, the son of Lieutenant-General Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh, the glamorous princely ruler of the state of Patiala in Southern Punjab. Brought up in the lap of luxury, Bhalendra Singh shot up into a tall, handsome and lissom young man, with remarkable prowess in several branches of athletics.
When his elder brother Yadavinder Singh, the heir apparent of Patiala state, was getting ready to don colours for India against Lord Tennyson’s team (1937-38), Bhalendra Singh was playing cricket for Southern Punjab, a formidable outfit, which claimed among its members famous cricketers of the day, such as Nissar, Amir Alahi and L. Amar Nath who later rose to be India’s Test captain.
Bhalendra Singh was educated at the Aitchison College, Lahore, where, besides cricket, he distinguished himself in riding, polo and tennis. The Maharaja of Patiala had ace cricketers such as Col Mistry and Frank Tarrant, the Australian, to train his children. He also had famous Sikh scholars, notably Pandit Ram Basant Singh, to teach them the religious canon of their faith. Bhalendra Singh was exceptionally well prepared to excel in study as well as in sports. He worked as hard as he played. He proved first-rate in athletics, tennis, swimming, shooting and angling.
Very rarely in the history of the College had any one prince displayed such notable proficiency in so many diverse fields of sportsmanship. Bhalendra Singh succeeded in doing all this without any detriment to his academic work. He was not greatly interested in shikar or gun-dogs – two activities to which his father was passionately attached. His own interests were finally divided between cricket and tennis. Another of his major interests was Indian classical music. A favourite hobby was cooking and he also turned out a book of recipes. He spent a time at Cambridge University where he continued to play first-grade cricket, excelling as a slow bowler, Slow-bowling had always been his forte.
After India’s Independence, Bhalendra Singh held important positions in national sports. He was for many an year associated with the Amateur Athletic Federation of India, the Swimming Federation of India and the Indian Hockey Federation. In 1947, he became a life member of the International Olympic Committee and in 1959 he was elected president of Indian Olympic Association which office he continued to hold until 1975. He had another term in that office, 1980 to 1984.
He was the architect of the Asian Games movement and was the moving figure behind the Asian held in New Delhi during 1982. At the opening ceremonies of the Games he shared the podium with the President of India, Giani Zail Singh.
Raja Bhalendra Singh had occupied with outstanding efficiency some high-ranking positions in the civil administration of Patiala state. He had been working in the Home and Education departments of Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) as secretary until its amalgamation with the Punjab. Raja Bhalendra Singh was known for his exceptionally genteel and refined manner. His finesse and urbanity of speech were unmatched.
Raja Bhalendra Singh died in Delhi on 16 April 1992.