Bishan Singh Bedi was really an art or brute force. One way or another, he was always going to be a victim of the relentless march of modern cricket. The man who sports a turban as a peacock spreads its wings, whose arm action describes the delicate tracery of a work of art, is as magical as the Indian rope trick when he hits the spot, languidly but with such finesse.
But who would back him amid the acrid smoke of a duel involving such aggressive forces as Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee, Andy Roberts, and his eager young assistant Michael Holding? Sadly, the weight of evidence from Kingston, Jamaica, suggests that he had no stomach for the fight.
India, insisted Bishan Singh Bedi, did not declare on 97 for five and hand the series to the West Indians, who needed to score only 13 runs in their final innings. They ‘ran out of fit batsmen, players unscarred by the apparent violence of Holding’s short-pitched deliveries.
Reasonably enough, he was invited to explain why he did not bat in the first inning before he incurred an “agonizing” injury to a finger. Then he replied, deadpan, that he wondered who would have done the bowling had he been hit on the head by Bishan Singh Bedi. The overwhelming temptation is to wonder whether Bishen Singh Bedi might be the impending recipient of a set of white feathers.
Brian Close, arguably the bravest man to set foot on a cricket field, puts that in perspective, though. He told me: It would be easy at this distance to make certain comments, but it is not on. The circumstances of anyone’s game are peculiar, and I might be completely wrong.
Yes, I might have batted on. But a cricket ball doesn’t hurt me, and I’m perhaps not the best judge.” Maybe there is one main source of regret from this affair. Test cricket, so far along the road of intimidator bowling, would no longer seem to have a place for Bishen Singh Bedi.
He has expressed his distaste in an ambiguous way, in a fashion that invites more questions than answers. What the administrators of the game have to do now, surely, is to insist that umpires do not allow cricket to become little more than a simple test of brute force—”raw courage, a That would be the only reward for some bleak days in the Caribbean this spring.