Calcutta: Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi is 67, but hasn’t lost any of the fire within. In fact, despite a heavy defeat in the elections at the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA), Bedi isn’t giving up the fight. He’s there for the long haul.
Known not to mince words, Bedi spoke to The Telegraph on Saturday.
Q Has the big defeat left you bitter?
A No, no... My panel and I weren’t fighting to win, for we had no proxies, but to create awareness. That you’re interviewing me on the subject suggests that awareness has been created... Awareness about the rotten system of voting by proxy, awareness about the corruption in the DDCA... Awareness about things which, sadly, aren’t talked about.
So, you were prepared for the outcome — a ‘thumping’ win for S.P. Bansal’s group, which has the blessings of former president Arun Jaitley...
I knew we couldn’t win, for we had no proxies. But this is a fight to the finish, it’s not the end of the story. No way... There’s no looking back now.
It’s unusual for an AGM of a sports body to start at 9.00 am, yet the DDCA’s did, on Monday...
They (the ruling group) didn’t want the members to come... The DDCA is governed by the Company Law Board, and its business hours are supposed to be from noon till 8.00 pm, then how did the AGM start three hours before the commencement of business hours?
Were you a good sport and did you congratulate Bansal, who is also the Board vice-president from North?
There was no opportunity as Akash Lal and I walked out. They didn’t want to discuss the issues, didn’t want to talk cricket. There was no point our being there. The DDCA has over 4,000 members, yet the quorum is only 35! Beat that!
That Jaitley chose not to stand for re-election was, at least, a moral victory for you...
My take is different... I see it as a moral victory for cricket, not for me and my panel. The cause is bigger than us individuals.
Quite a few former cricketers were by your side, but one-time India teammate Chetan Chauhan is with Bansal. Isn’t this lack of unity a problem?
But Chetan was the only one... This could happen... However, a lot of former cricketers supported the issues raised, even if all of them didn’t sit with me on the dharna... Among others, I have the backing of Abbas Ali Baig, Madanlal, Kirti Azad (a Member of Parliament) and Maninder Singh.
Had Tiger Pataudi been alive, I assume he would have lent his support...
Tiger would have, though it could have been done silently. Of course, I wouldn’t have invited him to join our dharna, a symbolic protest against the goings-on.
What’s your USP?
The sincerity of the cause. We aren’t forcing anybody to come on board. But if you’re convinced, please do join us and rid the DDCA of its ills.
The way forward now...
We’re seeking legal opinion... We’re also looking to approach the Company Law Board... We won’t be sitting quiet. As they say, watch this space.
If I recall correctly, you’d raised pretty much the same issues three decades or so ago. Why did you give up then?
I shouldn’t have and I regret having done so. I ought to have continued the fight... Well, you can place some of the blame on my shoulders for the way things currently are in the DDCA.
You do, then, regret that course of action...
Looking back, I can say that walking out on issues isn’t an option. At the same time, I believe in fate and destiny... Nothing happens before its time.
You’ve pointed out that you wanted to create awareness, but won’t your defeat discourage former cricketers elsewhere from trying to get into administration?
I don’t agree. Rather, they’ll be encouraged to stand up for what is right. You know, 90 per cent of the human race comprises fence-sitters. If we (former cricketers) get the momentum going, then many would come over to our side. That, at least, is my belief. The breeze, my friend, is blowing from the Ramlila Ground!
Kapil Dev, who made his India debut under your captaincy, has told this newspaper that the constitution of the units affiliated to the Board should be on the same lines as that of the parent body. Basically, there must be uniformity. Surely, you’d welcome that...
I’m glad Kaps has said so. There has to be uniformity, just as there has to be accountability. How do the units spend the crores of Rupees allocated to each one of them every year? Accountability and transparency are musts.
Should you have involved Arvind Kejriwal, the new chief minister of Delhi?
It’s not about involving Kejriwal... I made a courtesy call before he became the chief minister... I was very impressed by him... He was cool and calm... At the end of our meeting, he said ‘hum aapke saath hain’... Look, Kejriwal’s canvas is huge, ours is small. But the issue is the same: End corruption in all manner and form.
Do you intend meeting Kejriwal again?
At some point, definitely.
Have you been inspired by Kejriwal, who has quickly turned Delhi politics on its head?
I have, for I strongly relate to the issues he has raised... So, yes, Kejriwal has been an inspiration... Besides, I listened to my inner voice... Something within asked ‘old man, are you going to see all this corruption till you die, or will you do something about it’? It’s then that I decided to stick my neck out. It’s probably easy to sit back and do nothing about issues you feel strongly about, but my make-up is slightly different. You know that.
Are you inclined towards a political party?
I have no political leanings, but there are causes which are dear to me.
Delhi’s fared poorly on the field too. Your take?
I won’t blame the cricketers, for performances can go up and down... The Gautam Gambhirs were desperate to make it to the next stage (quarter final) of the Ranji Trophy, but did the officials have the same desperation?
The final one... Some with plenty of influence in the Board must have been happy that you didn’t make it. Few, after all, appreciate outspoken men in their midst...
(Laughs) You’re right. Not just in the Board, many in the DDCA are happy I lost. They would be most uncomfortable having me around in the same room.