Murali and Bedi

Bedi has been the quintessential angry old man on the park bench of Indian cricket, picking fights with anyone who walks down the gravel path when he is in a foul mood, which is almost always. In the process, he has become somewhat of a spectacle, the kind that makes sensible people take the long route around when they see him ensconced on his bench, shaking his walking stick at the sky. Whether all this bile comes from frustration at how his next generations have minted money while he has not or whether he just enjoys letting fly against all and sundry is a matter of conjecture. What however is beyond doubt is that no one takes him seriously.

One of the players who has consistently been at the end of Bedi’s stingers has been Murali, who has been called a javelin thrower by him for many years now. It has evidently riled Murali up so much that right after retiring he has fired back at Bedi, using rhetoric that Bedi would approve. [Link]

He (Bedi) did not have any variation,” Murali, who retired from Test cricket last week after taking 800 wickets, said. “He just bowled left-arm spin and the pitch did the variation for him. That is what he bowled.”

Now some people would say that Murali, being an all-time great, had no need to snap back at someone whose importance was at the best marginal and he would have been better served  just taking the high road of silence or perhaps at the worst, merely blocking him like one of our Indian celebrities is famous for doing.

More than the fact that he reacted , what I  found unbecoming of such a legend was the specific comment on Bishen Singh’s greatness or lack of it. To put it simply, there is no way Murali could have known what variations Bedi bowled, how he varied his pace or drift or the exact moment of release. Even assuming, for nothing but the pleasure of seeing how much Bedi sucked, Murali had sat through hours of archival footage of Bedi bowling (you have to remember Bedi bowled in the 70s) there is really no way of knowing, since deliveries were not analyzed with the kind of technology you have available today, the subtle variations Bedi was using. Plus honestly no one takes close to 260 wickets by letting the pitch do all the work. And because Murali’s accusation makes no cricketing sense, it is akin to simply saying “I am a better bowler than you, so shut up” , a particularly juvenile comeback which assumes that people can only criticize someone if he/she does that activity better than the person being criticized (the Ram Gopal Varma argument) [Some may say that calling Murali a chucker does not even need expertise in bowling but merely the ability to see].

My larger point of course is not whether Murali chucks or not but how criticism, even one that is extremely personal and appears quite motivated, needs to be handled by people in the public domain. While I do not subscribe to the notion that people, just because they are celebrities, do not have the right to respond to their critics (the high road argument), knee-jerk, anger-driven reactions like “You suck” [ Murali could just as well laughed Bedi off with a “Who cares what he says” and the dismissal of Bedi as a no-body would have drawn blood] or “You are a fossil” or a head-butt in a World Cup final serve no purpose but to reveal, in quite a blatant way, their own complexes.

Not that celebrities do not or should not have complexes, but I believe they are better kept hidden behind a sarcastic smirk and a cleverly constructed takedown. Else they too end up become marginalized men on park benches, screaming at anyone whom them they think is laughing at them.

[Picture courtesy DailyMail]

37 thoughts on “Murali and Bedi

  1. 1st

  2. Will i get an Ipod? Dont have any idea how or whether it works…!

  3. Shouldn’t that be “javelin thrower”?

  4. dada, have commented for the first time on your blog, though i have followed it religiously ever since i was told about you by my friend. have read ur book as well.

    please reply. wud make my day.

  5. Was quite taken aback at Murali’s comments actually. First time he has said anything so bitter. I suppose the camel-straw argument could be made with regard to the comment.

  6. 2nd..
    now will read this one

  7. @Satyendra Jha,

    I honestly dont give out iPods. Please do keep commenting though.

  8. I’ve seen a few of Bedi’s diatribes against Murali over the years and could never fathom the cause for such derision. i think of murali’s reaction as the irritated reaction of a stage performer who’s been constantly heckled by one person in the crowd. the response is unbecoming, no doubt but then it only goes to show that he’s human after all and not a very PR-savvy one at that.

  9. good one… yeah, when celebrities like murali or dravid even open their mouth, it just seems out of place, given that they usually take the high road…

    bedi’s one harassed soul… disgruntled, old, over weight, and his [no innuendo please:GB adds]

    and arnab, stardust really? i always wondered what sort of person would read such a thangg


  10. Now Bedi @ receiving end and I like it.

  11. Well, I agree with you. But then Murali has never been one who plans his actions or cared for his image. He is all heart and this was clearly straight from the heart.

  12. BSB was very critical about Saurav Ganguli too… I think he is very critical on every one except Maninder Singh. He keep making sweeping statements and may be this is the way he ensures to catch headlines. Media also uses him to creat sensations. You would never see media asking for his reaction when India does well…
    I normally take his comment as junk and never read what he says. However I am happy some one called his bluff… He should get a punch or two back.

  13. Ok so who’s smoking the bedi again.

  14. BSB was going on and on provoking. and In most ordinary language. There is a limit of tolerence. Even for nice guys like Murali. He could have chosed more careful and stinging words, had his reaction not been impromtu. I think thats the only mistake he made. just a shrug with some cheeky one liner would have served better. the ‘wrestle with pig’ analogy applies.

  15. Let’s face it .., Murali had been repeatedly called for throwing in the late 90s / early 2000s and ICC bent its rules under the Asian clout to accommodate all that crap. Nobody gets 800 by just chucking and Murali did not get all his wickets with the doosra – and Bedi knows this as much as anyone. But that doesn’t change the fact that without his doosra Murali would perhaps not be what he is today.

    The comment by Murali actually shows his lack of finesse and sophistication in handling communication with the media. So much for Arjuna Ranatunga’s chest thumping … “Siri Lankans are very educatad and are mature enough to handal pressure situashans on and off the field”.

  16. I disagree with your views that a great such as Murali should never react . Come on man, he just retired with 800 wickets and he sees someone calling all his wickets as run outs . And it isnt as if he said SHUT UP like Vidhu Vinod Chopra said to one of the reporters. Murali simply said Bedi was an ordinary bowler.

    I didnt see arrogance or anything in Murali’s comments.

    His comments were an honest sporting observation.
    Akin to Gambhir’s observation in this IPL that the Rajasthan Royals are a pretty ordinary batting line up once Yousuf Pathan is out.

    Just to be humble, one shouln’t lie all the time. It becomes cloyingly annoying when someone like Amitabh Bachchan keeps on saying that he is a no body when it comes to acting . This kind of false modesty is very irritating.

    Murali has the viewpoint that stats speak a lot . And we should respect his viewpoint .

  17. Most champions in sport have a streak of arrogance. In fact, it is debateable whether one can be a sporting great without this character trait. Most carry it with a degree of subtility and finesse (Federer/Tendulkar/Lara/Sampras/Schumacher, whom you’ll never call arrogant, but who will never undersell themselves either), some do not (Muhammad Ali/Tyson/Serena Williams/Dennis Lillee…), and some just don’t know how to articulate it, which is apparently the bracket Murali falls into.

  18. Yes, I topic on cricket. Cricket Blogger that I am you see.

    Firstly GB, I do not agree with you that Murli should have not made an argument in this case. Murli has silently taken it all in these years, and Bedi has been hitting back when there was no response forthcoming. May be to provoke? Don’t know, can not say.

    Murli has certainly been called upon many times and gone under various tests, and changes have been made. More importantly, his case brought in bio-medics into the game. Prior to him, the bowlers who were of a “suspect action” had no future ahead of them. Now, they too can be tested and corrected at a young age.

    Secondly, about the validation of his comment, Murli would be quite an authority to judge Bedi, by watching a few videos even without the available technology. Analogy could be, you should be able to bring up flaws in my writing skills, as you are one of the most read bloggers around.

    Thirdly, Bedi did bowl at a time when India had three other spinners. That tells me, even with no technology, that it was a time when Indian spinners were dominant, the reasons being rank turners in India, and most of the world, with the exception of Pakistan did not know how to play spin at all. Records state that Bedi took only 6 wickets in 6 innings with a bowling average of 74.83 against Pakistan, as against his career average of 28.71. Statistics don’t support BS Bedi here.

    Finally, I have been tired of Bedi and his comments on the present crop of players. There is some dignity that a former player, 64 years of age, that is missing in Bedi.

  19. I couldn’t resist to comment here and make a couple of observations.

    First about Murali’s action and his success:

    a) Murali has a bent arm from the birth that experts have verified. Further experts have concluded that covered from two different camera angles, it creates an optical illusion of chucking. The fact is that bio-mechanical experts have concluded that Murali’s arm didn’t bend more than other ‘clean’ bowlers like Glen McGrath.

    b) Some might argue that Murali was tested in lab conditions, which is very different from match conditions. Fair enough, but can anyone explain why he was called for bowling even leg spinners? Is it possible without making a conscious effort to do so? Therefore, I buy the theory of optical illusion of chucking because of his bent arm.

    c) It is not because of his action Murali got 800 Test wickets and 515 ODI wickets equaling a monumental 1315 international wickets in amazing strike rates and averages in both formats of the game. If that was the case, many other bowlers would have emulated his action, or at least tried to have in some part of their career. It didn’t happen. It is preposterous to even suggest Murali’s success to his unorthodox action.

    Coming to Bedi and his supporters now. First a few things about his talent and achievements on the cricket field.

    a) There is no doubt Bedi was a good bowler. Unless he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have taken 266 wickets in 66 Tests with an average of 28.71 in Tests and 31 wickets in 10 ODIs with an average of 48.57. His best bowling in Tests and ODIs were 7/98 and 2/44 respectively. He once conceded just 6 runs in 12 overs bowling 8 maidens for 1 wicket in an ODI against East Africa in 1974 Prudential Cup.

    b) Bedi took all those wickets during the days when major Test playing countries like England, Australia didn’t quite get a hang of spin bowling owing to the nature of the pitches in their home countries that bred a culture of swing, seam and fast bowling. Those days, countries didn’t play close to as many matches against each other as they are now for the past 20 years or so.

    c) If you look at Bedi’s international career statistics, you would not find anything extraordinary in them. Some brilliant flashes may be there, but then, even Ajit Agarkar also took 6 wickets for 61 runs against Australia in the Adelaide Test in 2003 and broke Dennis Lillee’s world record for the fastest 50 wickets in ODIs.

    d) With such run-of-the-mill achievements by today’s standards, his hubris can be only compared to Sanjay Manjrekar’s refusal to take batting technique lessons from the great Sunil Gavaskar.

    On the ongoing controversy between Bedi and Murali:

    a) If Bedi had been giving it to Murali for so long, he must have been prepared to take some hard soundbytes in from his target, which I believe was not entirely baseless. Forget about the stats for a moment, can Bedi compare even the percentage of matches he won for India with his bowling with Murali’s match-winning performances for Sri Lanka? There is no comparison at all.

    And, mind you, Sri Lanka was just as strong (or weak) in the early 90s as India was in the 70s. There no any comparison even when it comes to transforming the team’s fortunes and performances.

    b) If Murali has called Bedi a controversy monger, he was not far from the truth. Many of you might remember the shamelessly written open letter to Sunil Gavaskar in the capacity of Indian team’s manager in England when Gavaskar refused to accept the MCC membership because of an issue of pride.

    Far from supporting Gavaskar and Indian pride, he displayed total lack of spine. Due to people like him, Subcontinental crickets still suffer discrimination of all kinds during matches.

    After India’s humiliating first Test loss at Mumbai during the famous 2000-01 home series in India against the formidable Aussies, Bedi in his interview asked Steve Waugh whether he expects a 3-0 series win or a 2-1 series win just before the famous Kolkata Test. The question in itself might seem innocuous, but the manner in which Bedi asked Waugh belied his sarcasm and the perennial pessimism he harbours towards Indian cricket. Of course, it is another story that Laxman and Dravid went on to turn the Test on its head and India eventually won the series.

    Then, there are many more instances when Bedi embarrassed Indian cricket and Indians like during his ridiculous coaching techniques when he took the team to New Zealand.

    A piece of history now.

    During Murali’s debut against India, Bishen Bedi gave him some bowling tips. Murali was a rookie and Bedi was already an Indian spin ‘legend’. As a budding cricketer anyone would be delighted to get the chance to pick up some tips from someone who played the game well.

    During that time, Bedi was quite excited to meet the young cricketer. He actually went on to show a Bengali sports newspaper journalist Murali’s thick fingers and what makes him such a special bowler.

    Did Murali’s action change since then? But, Bedi’s view on Murali changed! 🙂

    If Kumble’s success wasn’t enough on Subcontinental pitches for Bedi to digest (of course he can never say a word against Kumble even if he wanted to, and I am just speculating here), Murali was just too much for him. In my opinion (and I guess I am entirely entitled to express my views and take on this), Bedi’s constant attack on Murali was purely out of jealously and nothing else. Along with his penchant for creating controversies, Bedi just couldn’t help but open his spiteful mouth.

    It was not surprising to see birds of a feather flocking together. Cocaine pusher and suicidal maniac Maninder Singh, who shares more things than his bowling style with Bedi, said on live TV that Murali got all his 5 wicket, 10 wicket hauls because the ICC allowed to bend his arm! How can you bend an arm that doesn’t straighten?

    And, wait! He says, Murali’s action got him all the success! Preposterous, as I said before.

    Maninder also went on to say that Bedi has shown a ‘lot of grace’ by not responding. Grace my foot! He is hiding his embarrassed face because he has no arguments to refute Murali.

    And, that’s not grace.

  20. jayanta,

    a lot of points that you have made are also a part of my argument, which are awaiting moderation.

    i hope the moderator allows the comment soon enough!

  21. True, but I have to agree with Bedi to an extent on this one. I just can not respect Murali as much as I respect someone like Warne or Kumble or Saqlain. The rules were bent in his favour and well, he made the most of it. He was very good but would certainly not be the best. ( Not sure about this one but I had heard that the polio he had allows him to turn the ball a lot more than the others, again respect for making his weakness his greatest strength but let’s just leave it at that)

  22. While I take your point about this may not have been Murali’s brightest moment…but believe that once in a while people should just let one rip if some one is being a complete a**hole and relying on your non-reaction.

    Bedi has just not doubted his action but been very uncivil in expressing that opinion…using needless derogation.

    Murali is also human, and if he chooses to be little less “perfect” in the quest of putting once across a man who has vilified him in many a public forum – who are we to judge his choice. He may be chuckling happily somewhere with the glee of a schoolboy who has socked his bully. Maybe he loses moral superiority in the eyes of the class teacher but boy would it not feel sweet to him.

  23. Well scientific studies on him have deduced that Bedi is always talking coz Bishan cant Sing.

  24. When Murali was hauled up by the ICC for questionable action regarding his famed “doosra” Bishenji said What Doosra? Uska Pehla, Doosra, Teesra …Over Ka Chay Chay Ball Hi Illegal hai!!! Classic funny stuff!! Bishenji is like the Jetha/Jethu from a Bengali nightmare…Old, irritable and at war with the world but still lovable…Word has it that he used to lock up senior players like Kapil Dev and Ravi Shashtri in their hotel rooms when they went to tours abroad lest they fly off to the hotel disc/bar to experience the real “phoren”

  25. Steve Waugh put it brilliantly…for 15 years Bedi has been unfairly abusing Murali…u are right he has a habit of doing the same with alarming regularity..some time u just need/want to hit back..waugh compared the same to his situation with Ian chappell..and Bedi is just a huge lose canaon…he has taken panga with Gavaskar, Sachin, Ganguly, Sidhu etc etc etc etc

  26. Well… No doubt that the reaction was rather surprising… However, I must admit, I think someone should have just asked Bedi to shut-up a long long time ago. That chap is supremely annoying by any standard…

  27. “bedi” jalaile jigar se piya …

  28. I think a Dhoni would have handled it better… his remarks are very smart and light on the surface but if you dig deep, you know he’s taken his victim left, right and centre.. like the one he made about the Australian media after the whole Bhajji-Symonds-Monkey controversy.

    Nice post! 🙂

  29. bedi is in the same class as mahesh bhatt or mani shankar aiyer. give him a break… (leg break?)

  30. …Who cares what he says” and the dismissal of Bedi as a no-body would have drawn blood”.

    Great Lesson. Why indulge in mud fight with a pig. But then some claim silence as lack of arguments to refute. Would love to learn skills to silence mindless critics, bent on spoiling other’s efforts.

  31. There just isn’t any controversy here. Bedi, like so many others in Delhi are, is a typical loud mouth. They just don’t care about what they say and how they say, particularly when most of the time they seem to be expressing their wisdom in an inebriated condition. Any rebuttal therefore is taken in the right “spirit” and life goes on while the media makes merry.

  32. cleverness has crept into your writing now. well, whatever..

  33. There is one point that’s worth noting regards to murali’s bowling action,
    in the pre-controversy days,if one notices the position of the wrist before he winds up to release the ball (when the wrist is at the hips), the wrist position was such that the thumb pointed towards the ground and the palm used to face the off side and no wonder he used to extract far more turn those days.
    But, post-controversy, the action changed such that the thumb pointed up towards the sky and the palm pointed towards the on-side.
    If his action was squaky clean to start with, why did he change it (to a bio-mechanically less effective action)?

  34. Bedi is just a bitter arsehole, more so because his son was blushing whilst interviewing Murali during the IPL, claiming to be his biggest fan… I agree that Murali timed his comment wrong… he should have asked Bedi to shut his trap a good 10-15 years ago…

  35. Nice post. Check out my blog

  36. “…shut his trap…”
    @ Punita, that is really very funny….. lol…
    for some reason, bedi reminds me of Big B of the 70s, always angry, vigilante behaviour, thinks the burden of the cricket society is on his shoulders…
    I am not sure how potent bishen’s balls were (pun intended), if you go by angad bedi… lol… no further elaboration…

  37. Kathir Kirshnamurthi July 13, 2013 — 6:50 pm

    Murali is a humble man. He has his origins back to Namakkal, Tamil Nadu. People have a lot of respect in their diction and conduct in the area. Bishen Bedi was an oridnary bowler indeed. B.S. Chandra on the other hand was all humility and greatness.
    Somebody had to tell Bishen’s class and where he belongs. It better be Murali

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