Bishan Bedi was godfather of North India cricket: Madan Lal | Crickit
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Bishan Bedi was godfather of North India cricket: Madan Lal

By, Chandigarh
Oct 24, 2023 02:28 PM IST

Bishan Singh Bedi played a significant role in shaping Delhi cricket after he quit playing for Punjab in the late 1970s.

"I have been calling him everyday for a long time to inquire about his well being. I got a bit late in calling him today and never knew I would never be able to hear his voice again. His passing away is a huge loss and I am going to miss him dearly. So many memories with him. Go well, Bish," said former India all-rounder and Bishan Singh Bedi's close friend Madan Lal in an emotional tone.

Bishan Singh Bedi played a huge role in Madan Lal's career.(HT/Getty)
Bishan Singh Bedi played a huge role in Madan Lal's career.(HT/Getty)

Bedi, 77, breathed his last in Delhi on Monday, a week after the legendary India left-arm spinner and skipper underwent knee operation.

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He had been unwell for a long time and was last seen in public during the screening of the movie "Shabaash Mithu", sitting next to cricketer Mithali Raj, on whom it was based, at a cinema in New Delhi last summer.

Bedi's love affair with cricket started in his hometown Amritsar when he was a student at St Francis School. Even though no family member had any connection with sports or cricket, Bedi rejected the textile business run by his father at Putlighar in Amritsar. It led to a great journey as he became part of the famed Indian spin quartet with Erapalli Prasanna, BS Chandrashekhar and S Venkataraghavan in the 1960s and 1970s.

A student of Hindu College in Amritsar, Bedi considered his coach Gyan Prakash his godfather. His ferocious left-arm spin helped his college, North Zone and Panjab University win many cricket tournaments before a match between Prime Minister XI and the visiting West Indies in 1966-67 team changed his fortunes, eventually resulting in his India Test debut.

Bedi grabbed six wickets for PM XI against Gary Sobers’ robust West Indies, leaving the then BCCI selection committee chairman Lala Amarnath spellbound. Even though he was not named in the India team for the Test series against West Indies, he was asked to join the team by Amarnath as a practice bowler. As luck would have it, he was included in the team at the last minute owing to an injury to senior left-arm spinner Bapu Nadkarni, and made his Test debut at the Eden Gardens, taking two wickets.

"Thereafter, there was no looking back for Bishan. He had impressed the selectors and became a regular bowler of the Indian team for the next decade," said former Punjab Ranji Trophy cricketer Ashok Khanna, Bedi's childhood friend. Former India player Vijay Mehra was the first international cricketer from Amritsar and he was followed by Bedi. He was followed by Madan Lal, and the Amarnath brothers, Mohinder and Surinder.

Bedi captained India in 22 Tests. He was an active player from 1967 to 1979, playing in 67 Tests, taking 266 wickets. He also played for India in 10 ODIs, taking 7 wickets in the early days of the format.

"I was inducted in State Bank of India in 1966. Till that time he had not made his India debut. So, he was worried about his professional life. He kept asking me the route to get a job in SBI. Next year, he joined SBI as a probationary officer in the bank and was stationed at New Delhi," another close cricketer friend from Amritsar, Tilak Raj Gupta, said.

He played a significant role in shaping Delhi cricket after he quit playing for Punjab in the late 70s.

He brought Madan Lal, Surinder and Mohinder Amarnath from Punjab and Chetan Chauhan from Maharashtra and built the Delhi team to chase Ranji Trophy victory, winning the title eventually under Bedi's captaincy.

"He is North India's cricket godfather. He contributed a lot to Punjab and Delhi cricket. He never minced words too. He called a spade a spade," added Lal.

Punjab also owes its only Ranji Trophy win in 1993 in Ludhiana to Bedi, who came to Punjab in the mid 80s to work with the state team. He brought an in-form Delhi cricketer Gursharan Singh to Punjab, who captained the team to victory against Maharashtra in the final. Bedi was the chief coach.

Bedi is known for standing up for players. He asked BCCI to pay the Indian team members more when he was the captain. Under his captaincy, an Indian cricketer started getting Rs.15,000 as fees for playing a Test. He later became a national selector and was also India coach for the New Zealand and England tours of 1990. Bedi made headlines as cricket manager when he suggested he could get the entire squad thrown in the Pacific Ocean. This was in response to the side failing to chase a modest total against Australia in a tri-series game on that tour. He was heavily criticised for his comment.

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