Bishan Singh Bedi, India’s former captain, was a fiery figure in the sport, known as much for his impulsive criticism on other players as for his outstanding left-arm spin.
Bedi, who passed away on Monday at the age of 77, took 266 wickets in 67 Tests and captained the squad 22 times after Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s retirement.
His younger cricketing contemporaries held him in high esteem, and rightly so, as he was widely recognised as a true cricketing statesman.
Bishan is what critics would label a renegade. Wrong. Former captain Kapil Dev said of Bedi, “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) made Indian cricket immensely proud.”
However, he also had a reputation for being a harsh pronouncer; during his brief time as India’s coach in the 1990s, he allegedly threatened to drop the players in the Pacific Ocean after they suffered a humiliating loss to Australia.
He said the comment was misreported and that he would have let any player who felt ashamed jump into the water.
Bedi falsely accused England bowler John Lever of using petroleum jelly to improperly polish the ball during the 1976–77 tour of India.
In 1978, during a 50-over match against Pakistan, he became the first skipper to ever concede a match when the umpires failed to flag a wide despite four consecutive bouncers from Sarfraz Nawaz.
Bedi, the 13th of 14 children, was born in Amritsar, the holy city for Sikhs.
Along with Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, and Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, he was the most productive member of the spin quartet who led India’s bowling assault in the 1960s and 1970s.
He was so committed to his trade that he once accused Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan, who holds the record for most Test wickets with 800, of chucking.
Show me how to bowl if Murali doesn’t chuck. That’s not bowling, he exclaimed.
He doesn’t engage his shoulders, and his movements lack momentum. He has the makings of a formidable javelin thrower.
The famous Sachin Tendulkar, then in his teens and just beginning his international career, praised Bedi for his guidance during the year he spent as India’s coach after his playing career ended.
“I had the privilege of facing him in the nets… and I had to be at my absolute best while facing him,” remarked Tendulkar.
Players on the Jammu and Kashmir state team accused him of being unfair during the brief period he was in charge.
Two sons and two daughters, one from each of his two marriages, have survived him. Angad, his younger son, married the former Miss India and current actress and model Neha Dhupia.