To be in the presence of Bishan Singh Bedi is to know what warm affection is, what righteous anger could be and to also recognise that sport is part of a larger life.
The iconic left-arm spinner, who breathed his last at Delhi on Monday, was not just a cricketer, he had other shades too that ranged from philosopher to being a sharp observer of the nation’s politics.
As a great left-arm spinner, he gently lured batters to their doom and his words always had the depth of a life well lived and the world acutely observed.
In his 77 summers, with the prime years dedicated to cricket, as a player, coach, administrator and observer, Bedi gained immense stature. He had a larger-than-life presence, a laugh that reverberated from his belly before emerging from his mouth and black humour was always a constant accompaniment.
Part of the famous spin quartet, he was the first among equals despite the generous manner in which he always gave credit to Erapalli Prasanna, B.S. Chandrasekhar and S. Venkataraghavan.
His numbers – 266 Test wickets and 1560 first-class scalps – are staggering.
An action that was easy on the eye and one that held many unfathomable secrets for befuddled rivals, followed by a twinkle in his eye and the propensity to guffaw remained the eternal blend of a fine professional soaked in the amateur spirit.
Playing for India or plying his trade in the English counties, Bedi found eternal friendships.
One such was with Pakistan’s Intikhab Alam, now a distraught friend struggling with grief.
Bedi remained a man of the world and knowledge had to be shared, be it with Anil Kumble, Shane Warne, Monty Panesar or Sunil Joshi. Not for Bedi, the rigid boundaries of hyper-nationalism or regionalism.
Bedi could be affectionate and abrasive, he held no punches back but he cared deeply. Keeping an eye on a young Kapil Dev, later Sachin Tendulkar or Kumble, Bedi was always invested in cricket.
“Hello young man,” would be his hearty greeting before a pithy observation about a match in progress or a world in crisis emerged. Much like the great Michael Holding, Bedi had a wide perspective.
He never believed in monopolies and preferred nuance. Ever the contrarian with a good heart, Bedi spoke his mind about the BCCI or the local Delhi District Cricket Association. Not for him the dull word or the mask of political correctness. His departure leaves the world poorer.
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