People who have seen Bishan Singh Bedi coaching Ranji players on the cricket field, know something of his imposing, rather intimidating presence. And his character barely changes colour off the field. During his Monday afternoon session at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Bedi was as perceptive, fierce and scathing as he could be when shouting orders at young cricketers from the boundary rope at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
“Every game has its unique character,” Bedi told the audience, referring to the “corrupting element” of T20 cricket. “When cricket was invented, it was meant to be a sport played for leisure, over a stretch of time. Football is played for a 90-minute span. Now can you start playing 5-minute games? Golf is an 18-hole game. Can you say that you’ll finish it in three holes? So I naturally lean more towards Test cricket more. But my view in relation to T20 cricket remains a minority view.”
In a fast modernising sphere of professional sports, Bedi remains something of an outlier. His old-fashioned “minority views” about modern cricket have caused much controversy in the past. But he is not one to mince his words. “Cricket these days is played more on the laptops than on the field,” he said, laying into the whole culture of cricket coaching that is driven by technology-aided data and analytics. “I tell these people, you are not going to be carrying the laptop in the middle. You’ll need your ‘neck-top’ over there.”
Developing on this strain, Bedi cited the example of the Delhi cricketer Unmukt Chand, who was the captain of the World Cup-winning India under-19 team in 2012, and has since been struggling for a place in the national side. “He was a very promising boy,” Bedi said of Chand. “Now almost forgotten. So I once said to him, ‘You now have a batting coach to help you. You have a fielding coach to help you. You have a personal trainer to help you. You have a physio to help you. When are you going to help yourself?'”
Bedi doubtless is the most entertaining analyst of Indian cricket today, except when you’re at the receiving end of his hilarious, though always to-the-point, rebukes.