Colour and substance: The many shades of Navjot Sidhu | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Colour and substance: The many shades of Navjot Sidhu

editorials Updated: Jul 21, 2016 08:16 IST
Sandip Bardhan
Navjot Sidhu at the Rajya Sabha on July 18. The former cricketer has resigned from the House.
Navjot Sidhu at the Rajya Sabha on July 18. The former cricketer has resigned from the House.(Sonu Mehta/ HT photo)

“What prostrates a coward excites a brave man.”

Navjot Singh Sidhu (cricketer, commentator, TV personality, politician, god of one-liners etc.)

A portable, inflatable ‘Laughing Sidhu’ is available in the market, shows a spoof video by online entertainment platform TVF. Just pressing a red button will breathe life into the man in turban – yes, the colour can be customised--and make the depression-repellent Sidhu laugh before the punchline has been delivered.

Shot in the style of a teleshopping ad, the video epitomises the Navjot Singh Sidhu we know: a witty, jovial performer whose ‘Oye guru’ and ‘Cha gaye guru’ have become a part of the urban lingo.

Such is his aura that cricket matches seem dull in comparison with his blockbuster commentary and comedians on TV shows appear to be humming lullabies in front of his chirpy assessment.

But wait. Sidhu too gets depressed and angry--very angry.

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The 52-year-old politician’s decision to quit the Rajya Sabha on the first day of Parliament’s monsoon session has triggered a flutter in his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of next year’s Punjab elections.

Sidhu’s wife has said the former cricketer has reached a point of no return, apparently due to his differences with the northern state’s ruling BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal coalition.

The three-time parliamentarian from Amritsar was denied a ticket in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, although he was sent to the Upper House this April. Speculations are rife that Sidhu, who says his decision is for the greater good of Punjab, will join Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party.

What exactly pulled the trigger is a matter of a political debate. Only the future can go beyond the broader picture and unravel the episodes that stood out in the timeline of tussle between Sidhu and his party. And once leaked, those little anecdotes will make headlines for sure.

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Just like what happened after Sidhu’s much-talked-about walkout from the India vs England series in the summer of 1996. The flamboyant right-hander triggered a massive controversy when he returned home midway after an alleged fight with then skipper Mohammad Azharuddin.

Former cricket board secretary Jaywant Lele spilled the beans almost a decade and a half after that. In his autobiography, Lele admitted to the differences between Sidhu and Azharuddin, but also wrote how the tiff was apparently triggered by a misunderstanding.

A report in Mid-Day notes that an inquiry was conducted after the tour and that it was former cricketing great Mohinder Amarnath who made a steadfast Sidhu disclose the cause of the dispute.

It turned out that Sidhu took offence to the captain’s use of a phrase that is slang in northern India but considered a commonplace expression in Azahr’s home turf of Hyderabad. Sidhu was given a clean chit and played for three more years before announcing his retirement in 1999.

The two exits, their similarities and the behind-the-scenes stories from the 1996 tour (the 2016 anecdotes are awaited) add different shades to Sidhu’s beaming character. They also show the grumpy side of his persona.

So here is a man laughing and smiling his way to the top, yet unrelenting in the face of what he thinks is not right. Like always, Sidhu has accepted another challenge and it appears he is not afraid to venture into the unknown.

Footnote: There is something in this story for the BJP as well. Legend has it that due to Sidhu’s withdrawal from the Tests two youngsters got the opportunity to show their talents on the cricket field. Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, who made their debuts in that series, went on to become two of India’s finest cricketers.

It’s up to the BJP-SAD team, which is facing perceived anti-incumbency after almost a decade in power, to find the Gangulys and the Dravids of Punjab politics. Time seems to be running out.

But to conclude, here’s a slightly tweaked version of a ‘Sidhuism’ sermon doing the rounds in the internet: “There is light at the end of the tunnel for them, but it could be of an oncoming train which will run them over.”