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Bishen makes waves again

There is a ''sea of difference'' in what Bishen Bedi said then, and what he says now, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 13:49 IST
Atul Sodhi

You may love or hate Bishen Bedi, but you cannot remain immune to what he has to say on important cricketing matters. Take away the sting from his comments, and what you have is perfect remedy for cricketing ailments.

Known for his no-holds barred view, Bishen Bedi has not exactly found favour with the establishment for his outspokenness. Indians generally prefer to take the middle way out, be it politics  or sports.

Aggression should not come out of words, but deeds, is a tacit understanding — the very edifice of our civil society. Bedi's sharp comments, at times, threaten to breach it.

The "original turbanator" was dubbed an extremist and a persona-non-grata when as coach he had infamously commented that Azhar's team should be thrown into the sea after a string of defeats during the 1990 tours of Australia and New Zealand.

The whole incident was jokingly described as a classic case of a coach acquiring killer instinct even as the whole of team was losing it on the field! The players, and skipper Azhar, looked irrirated and amused at the same time.

Extreme? May be. But urgent

A different generation wields the willow today, and these warriors are certainly not likely to be amused with Bedi's latest comment.

After all, Bedi's advice to send Sehwag and Kaif back to National Cricket Academy may seem to be bordering on extreme, but the former coach knows what he is talking about. Basically, the idea is to ensure that the flaws, which tend to creep into the techniques of the best of batsmen, are rectified in time.

Bedi's statements, or the form in which they are presented, may smack of certain brazenness, but they are certainly not shorn of logic. Even the best batsmen face slump in form — at times it's just a temporary bad patch, and at times a minor error in technique which may have become glaring over a period of time.

Even the likes of Mohinder Amarnath had to make some adjustments to more effectively counter the new challenges. And he was described by no less a person than Imran as the best player of pace of that time. Many players stand outside the crease to counter swing.

Top players have sought, and got help from former greats and the most famous, rather infamous case of course has been of Sourav Ganguly asking for Greg Chappell's help on his batting technique! That was before Greg became coach. But there could be  some better examples worth emulating.

Businessman Waugh

In an interview during the 2001 tour of India, Steve Waugh had compared himself to a businessman. As a businessman has to keep evolving new strategies to improve profits and keep rivals at bay, a player (batsman) has to keep improving his armory, range of strokes, and keep an eye on technical flaws, Waugh had said.

A career spanning one and a half decade would not have been possible but for these technical adjustments to climb bigger mountains.

The only problem is that Bishen Bedi has been a little more curt with his advice,  and that's it.

''Back to basics'' is perhaps the most dreaded sentence a batsman can hope to hear, especially an established Test batsman. It is the first signal that something is wrong somewhere.

Thereafter, the onus is squarely on him whether to take it as an advice, or just mindless criticism not worth listening to. Especially as it comes from someone who today has no significant role to play in the Indian cricketing establishment.

The Original Captain Courageous

'Flight' and 'fight' are two words that can best describe Bishan Bedi. A courageous man, Bishen knows what he is talking about. He has a long history of protesting when he sees there is something wrong.

It is unlikely that any other captain, barring perhaps Sourav Ganguly, would have protested the use of Vaseline by John Lever in one of the most successful series England had played in India in 1976-77 season.

It was construed a case of sour grapes because India were down 0-2 in the five test series, eventually losing it by one match to three. Bedi had become a perennial villain for the British establishment, but it did not bother him a bit.

Earlier in 1975-76, Clive Lloyd, clearly rattled by India's fightback in the Port-of-Spain Test, chose to resort to intimidatory tactics at Kingston, Jamaica. Bedi did not hesitate in prematurely declaring  both of India's innings.

He eventually left Lloyd's team with a ridiculously easy target of 13 to win! It was an ultimate act of defiance. An act of courage that shamed the West Indies and rendered their  2-1 victory hollow.

No Hard Talk Today

But those were the glorious seventies, when cricket was played without helmets. It was then a gentlemen's game, where technical purity sometimes mattered more than the eventual score. Bedi's brave decisions, or comments, were more likely to be accepted, if not admired.

Today's cricket is more glamorous, ad-driven, and full of stars. For some players, going back to basics is akin to going back to the pre-historic time when an edge over the slip cordon was a ''technical flaw'', and not the  ''slash of a genius''.

So the advice of a trip to NCA may be  a well-meaning advice, but not the one likely to be taken as such. It has not come form the right quarters, and has appeared in rather harsh language.

It's high time that the former captain learned to be little more polite with words. He means well, but that will not be understood.

No Hard-talk Bishen. You are dealing with the generation next!