By Prakash Bhandari
Numerous Indian cricketers from Syed Mushtaq Ali to Sachin Tendulkar have written their biographies. Tendulkar’s ‘Playing My Way’ sold like hot cakes. MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Dravid, Sanjay Manjrekar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly have all come out with their autobiographies.
But the cricket lovers would still like to read books by Salim Durrani, Vinoo Mankad and Lala Amarnath to understand what made them legends in their lifetime.
The latest in the cricket literature is the book on spin wizard Bishan Singh Bedi. This book ‘Sardar of Spin’ is neither an autobiography nor a biography. But a collection of articles written by 34 luminaries like Kapil Dev, Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Anil Kumble, B S Chandrasekhar, EAS Prasanna, Farokh Engineer, G R Vishwanath, Vijay Merchant, Abbas Ali Baig, Kirti Azad, Greg Chappel, Michael Holding and Mike Brearley.
This book is an outcome of hard work undertaken by former Delhi skipper Venkat Sundaram, and Sachin Bajaj and has been published by Roli Books to mark the platinum jubilee of Bishan Singh Bedi.
The book also carries the contribution of historian Ramchandra Guha and eminent cricket writers like Suresh Menon, Rajdeep Sardesai Ayaz Memon, Clayton Murzello, Qamar Ahmed, G Rajaraman, V Ramnarayan etc.
Kapil Dev has written the foreword of the book and like many has chosen to address Bedi as Paaji, which in Punjabi is like a big brother.
“Indian cricket has seen many great personalities. I was fascinated by GRV (Viswanath). I came to know Sunny (Gavaskar). Played with Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin. But there was no one like Bishan paaji. I can’t do justice writing about such a large-hearted man who believed in living life with a very positive attitude.
“I have seen Bishan paaji get worked up when he felt the game was losing its character because of some individual. He told me early in my career that one had to respect the game because it gave you your livelihood. If I could achieve something in cricket, I would say his teaching showed me the way. He was one of the finest cricketers and he was also one of the finest speakers on the game,” writes Kapil.
Sachin Tendulkar writes: “As a young child, I had heard stories of the famous and formidable spin quartet of Prasanna, Chandrasekhar, Venkataraghavan and Bishan Singh Bedi. About Bishan paaji, I had heard tales of how he bamboozled the batsmen with his guiles – flight and turn that often left them stranded. I was told watching him in action was a delightful experience, and I must say, it was indeed very special when I first saw him at the camp where he often bowled in the nets”.
Gavaskar and Bedi were not on the best of terms, but when requested by Bedi, Gavaskar thus wrote:
“Until Wasim Akram came on the scene, Bishan Singh Bedi was the best left-hand bowler I had seen. I guess, one can now say that Bishan Singh Bedi is the best left-arm spinner, and Wasim Akram, the best left-hand pacer. During the last Test match of India’s triumphant tour of the West Indies in 1971, I was floored and honoured when, in Trinidad, Bishan Singh Bedi – who had become a father during the game – decided to name his firstborn, Gavas Inder Singh. Gavas Inder Singh completed his Golden Jubilee in April while Bishan Singh Bedi celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday in September.”
EAS Prasanna also wrote briefly: “Bishan being a genius in the art of spin bowling is an excellent human being. As a captain, he was strong in his views and he was prepared to stick his neck out: not concerned over what others might think about his decision, he would give it a try”.