Bishan Singh Bedi
Greatest Sikh Cricket Player (B.1946)
On a winter evening in 1979, a cricketer after a strenuous workout session was returning to a pavilion in Delhi when suddenly three small boys hardly in their teens, with muddy faces whispered his name and then giggled. The man at once broke his company, gave an affectionate pat on each head and then shook their rough hands as the juvenile souls stood dazed in amazement.
While travelling in a train, an up-and-corning cricketer jokingly asked this man why he was carrying a bat which was of little use to him as he batted at the end for a few seconds, sometimes playing just a ball or two. Smilingly, the man obliged the young cricketer who stood surprised at the former’s gesture.
After finishing his assignment with a country club in England, this man on his way back purchased a set of wicketkeeper gloves for a promising lad, son of a groundsman, on his own.
A Mohammedan boy lay ill in a Karachi hospital a few years ago with no hope of survival the reason ? Blood group `O’ was available neither at hospital nor was anybody ready to donate a few drops to save his precious life. Suddenly the boy’s parents got an anonymous, call. Startled, the parents asked who he was. The voice at the other end said: "A man." In a few minutes the man appeared on the scene for donating his blood to save the life of someone who did not belong to his faith even.
Who was this man, involved in some out-of-the book incidents cited above ? Certainly, he was none other than Bishan Singh Bedi, one of the all-time greats in the annals of international cricket. India has produced bowlers, say spinners of great merit but Bedi had no peers, he was a cut above the rest
A bowler of extra-ordinary potential with extra-ordinary sight, a fine patka over his long hair wound in a knot at the top. Bedi bowled and baffled many a great bat in the world . In a clockwork precision, Bedi` bowled ovens as no other, bowler would do, maintaining a computerised length and direction, weaving a magic web with his vicious deliveries around the, players’ legs. He razed to dust the reputation of some , while he made other stalwarts look pedestrians before him. He flighted the ball giving a lot of air to it. Batsmen who plundered runs at will before, were’ suddenly found lacking, in the art and science of the game when Bedi came to bowl. Great cricketers like Australia’s Doung Walters found himself many times bowled lock, stock and-barrel by a slow orthodox Bedi delivery that on view seemed perfect for a six. John Edrich, onedown batsman for England for a pretty long time, failed to complete the century, once, falling to a Bedi delivery which spun in viciously after pitching. It is on record that Bedi finished the career prematurely of some fine cricketers in the game. But the more he was ruthless on the field the more he was gentle and humane off the field. The honour of the country remained always dear to him, nothing could distract him from his goal. When the traditional Test cricket faced danger from Australian T.V. tycoon Kerry Packer, Bedi defied the million dollar-offer and single-handedly held aloft the flag of Test cricket.
Bedi is and was a great crusader. Following principles of morality and merit, he dared defy the authority of all mortals. He vehemently attacked those he found stooping below the level of sportsmanship. He fought many a battle, no matter whether he won or lost, May 11 would go dawn in history as the Red Letter Day for Asia as on this day, Bedi spoke from the United Nations Platform in New York against apartheid in sports practiced by South Africa. It was for the first time that an Indian was given the rare honour’ of addressing the United Nations. After he was introduced by the then Nigerian Chairman of the committee as one of the finest spin bowlers in the world’, Bedi said
"India consider apartheid in sports practised by South Africa as a negation of the principles of human dignity.’ I call upon all the sports organisations of the world to work united to end the practice. The only, effective weapon in this direction is for the countries of the world to sever sporting contracts between their nationals and the nationals of South Africa. I am aware I have been chosen for the honour by the committee because of this citizenship of a country which has been in the vanguard of the international movement against the evil system of apartheid in South Africa for several decades"
He has already been awarded the Arjuna and Padam Shri awards.
Bishan Singh Bedi was born at Amritsar, the Sikhs’ spiritual capital, on, September 25, 1946. He finished his schooling unnoticed. But his ability as a potential bowler came to view only after he joined Khalsa college, Amritsar. He showed sparks of brilliance while bowling slow left spinners. Convinced as the captain was of his class and calibre, Bedi was given long spells of bowling thus learning the tricks in the trade of spin bowling. Next year,he joined Hindu College, because the new institution afforded him a lot of opportunities to shape himself into a fine bowler. Rightly Bedi enhanced his reputation and rating on the cricket scene as he gradually rose from one step to another. From the college to the university team from Punjab to the North Zone side, Bedi advanced with effortless ease. The early encouragement, his success and total commitment to the cause of cricket paid rich dividends. Often in sweltering heat of the summer, the people saw a young man in turban bowling alone for hours at a stretch. Determination and devotion of this kind could not but yield results later.
Bedi, after establishing his credentials well in the state and zone soon caught the eye of the national selectors who put him to severe test against a team led by an all-time great Garry St.A.Sobers of the\ West Indies. Thus in the second Test played from December 31,1966, to January 5,1967, at Calcutta, the people saw a lean figure sporting a beard and turban descending on the cricket field. Though India lost, Bedi won the hearts of both the spectators and selectors. From then on started the success story of this fine spinner. As the years went by Bedi became an integral part of the team. His cricketing exploits are now almost legendary. He played against all cricket playing countries: England, Australia, the West Indies, New Zealand and Pakistan. With 266 wickets in the bag, he was at one time the fifth biggest wicket-taker in the history of the world. At another time some strongly believed that had he not been sidelined unceremoniously by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, he would have gone on to become the top wicket-taker. He led India in 22 Tests in a row which in itself is a record for India as previously Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi held the distinction with 21 Tests. Bedi is also the only India bowler to claim over 1500 wickets in first-class cricket.
If Bedi’s contribution to Indian cricket is great, to Delhi it is ever greater. Helping those with no godfathers is another of Bedi’s pastime. He has helped many a budding player to hit the headlines. In Delhi, he harnessed cricket potential to a great extent; making it emerge as the premier side .on the national cricket scene. Convince him of a good cause, whether in sports or in any other worthy field like collecting funds for the handicapped, well, Bedi will -be in the forefront of all noble campaigns. And this is what has endeared Bedi to the public. Even after his retirement from the game,he remains the heart throb of the millions not only in India but the world over. Fully subscribing to the Sikh faith and ideology, Bedi remains a popular figure to the millions of Sikhs in India and abroad.