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]