Sardar of Spin Cricketing fraternity celebrates life of Bishan Singh Bedi in new book

     New Delhi, Sep 26 (PTI) A fierce competitor but an equally warm person, a crusader who stood up for his and others' rights, but most importantly for India, a magician with a cricket ball in his hands -- Bishan Singh Bedi has meant many things to many people whose lives he has touched.
     And as the spin legend turned 75, the best of Indian cricket, including Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar, came together to marvel at his artistry and fierce personality in a book titled 'Sardar of Spin'.
     Published by Roli Books to mark Bedi's 75th birthday, the book is a reflection of the goodwill and respect that Bedi earned for his skills on the field and no-holds-barred opinions off it.
     Tendulkar has written about the times when Bedi was the coach of the Indian team in the 1990s and the affection he showered on the players after being a hard taskmaster in training.
     "Bishan paaji was ahead of the times in terms of preparing us for the matches. The nets were conducted in a serious manner, and he would, many a time, join by bowling to the batsmen.
     "Fiercely competitive, he would challenge the batsman to step out or hit him to a specific target. It was a great sight when he won those battles. I had the privilege of facing him in the nets and it was evident that he was still working on setting up a batsman, and I had to be at my absolute best while facing him," writes Tendulkar.
     Talking about his relationship with Bedi, Tendulkar adds: "I always had this feeling that he treated me like his son. He would greet me as 'Sashoo, my son', and I could always feel the warmth in his tight hug.
     "When one was down, he would try to strike a conversation and make one feel comfortable. I have had some great times with him and his family, and it is nice to see Angad (Bedi's son) doing well in his chosen profession."
     Bedi has endured a rough few months.
     He spent three weeks in hospital in February-March this year after complaining of heart problems and subsequently also underwent an operation to remove blood clotting in his brain.
     The 75th birthday celebration that took place on Friday here was an ode to the fortitude of the man and was attended by his family, and close friends and former players.
     In the book, the great Gavaskar described Bedi as the best left-arm spinner to have played the game. Bedi took 266 wickets in 67 Tests.
     "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 first born, Gavas Inder Singh.
     "Gavas Inder Singh completed his Golden Jubilee in April while Bishan Singh Bedi celebrates his seventy-fifth birthday in September.
     "I am thankful to the organisers of the celebration, and the book publishers for giving me the opportunity to send my greetings and good wishes to both on the momentous occasion."
     The foreword of the book has been written by Kapil, who was star-struck by the iconic bowler growing up.
     "Among my early memories of Bishan paaji is the image of a player with his collars up and shirt buttons open. I was a kid and was watching the Duleep Trophy match between North and Central. Bishan paaji was a star. I just could not take my eyes off him.
     "He was not an athlete but he was always busy on the field, constantly doing some exercise or the other when he was not bowling or when he was fielding in the deep. I also remember playing an Irani Cup match and watching him bowl.
     "He made a big impression on me with his catching as he stood in the slips, and praised me for the half-century I made," he writes.
     Bedi has also been known to call a spade a spade without caring about the consequences for himself. His public bashing of the Delhi and District Cricket Association not too long ago for naming a stadium after a politician being a case in point.
     To Kapil, Bedi's unabashed opinions were a reflection of his awareness of not just his own rights but also his fellow cricketers.
     "Critics would call Bishan paaji a rebel. Wrong. To me, he was a cricketer who knew his rights well. He stood up for the cricketers, fighting for better match fees, travel facilities and accommodation.
     "He took on the Delhi and District Cricket Association because he wanted the players to be treated with respect. He did not hesitate to clash with the Board officials when he thought they were not being fair in their approach.
     "For him, nothing was more important than the players’ interest and he was always prepared to walk any distance to achieve his goals. True, he suffered in the process, but always emerged with his head held high. A true sardar who made Indian cricket immensely proud," adds Kapil.
     The other cricketers who have written about him in the book include Anil Kumble, Vijay Merchant, Michael Holding, B S Chandrasekhar, Kirti Azad, Murali Kartik, Greg Chappell and Mike Brearley. PTI BS PM

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)