New Delhi: Former captain of the Indian cricket team, Bishan Singh Bedi, feels that media as well former cricketers are pigmies in comparison with batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, and the only person who can sit in judgment for him is Tendulkar himself.
He, however, feels that if Sachin fails to take a decision for himself, the board must step in and take the call.
The former cricketer also talked about Dhoni, BCCI, and the recent rift in the Indian squad to Karan Thapar on Devil’s Advocate.
Here is the full text of the interview:
Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devils Advocate. Is Indian cricket in crisis? Who is responsible and what should be done about it? That’s the key issue I should explore today with the former Indian captain and one of the great spin bowler of his time, Mr Bishan Singh Bedi.
Mr Bedi, let me start with a simple and direct question. Thrashed in England, thrashed in Australia and right at the bottom of the table in the Common Wealth Bank series. Is Indian Cricket in crisis?
Bishan Singh Bedi: No, not in crisis now. But I would like to know the meaning of the crisis. They are in the doghouse, if I may say so. And the important thing is how the hell do they get out of this?
Karan Thapar: I will come to this in a moments time. But let’s just examine how bad the situation is. Last year when India went to England they were considered the number one Test team in the world. They were also the world champion of the one day game. Then they lost eight Test one after another something that hasn’t happened since sixties, at least four inning defeats and only on two occasions, was the Indian team was still playing on the fifth day. Some people say it was a calamity?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Well, more then a calamity as far as I am concerned, to be honest, this has been a very depressing phase of Indian cricket. You have been number one in Test ranking, you been the world champions, what have you done to stay there? Absolutely done nothing and the room of the top is always vacant. Australians stayed there over a period of time in Test cricket as well as one day cricket. And Indian once they became number one in Test cricket, once they won the world cup, you know, they became far too complacent. And honestly I don’t blame the players; it is the system which allowed them to become complacent.
Karan Thapar: Let me ask you that in a blunt fashion. Where does the principle responsible lie, with the captain, the players, the coach or with the cricket board?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Primarily the BCCI, the board because they are the one who call in the shot. I don’t see any reason why the players on their own should become the complacent, or the coach should not have any say in the real running of the game. Running in the sense, taking charge of the exact performance on the field.
Karan Thapar: But isn’t it just easy to blame the BCCI after all the players do the playing and the captain leads the team, the coach manages and trained them. You are exonerating all of them and why BCCI?
Bishan Singh Bedi: No, I am not exonerating the coach, the players or anybody for that matter. But BCCI to my mind is far too laid back. I am telling you Karan honestly, how can an amateur setup run a professional game?
Karan Thapar: That’s where the problem begins?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yes, that’s right. How can you have bloody honorary secretary, honorary treasure, honorary president? Looking after profession like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Laxman and the lot, no something wrong.
Karan Thapar: So the people who run the BCCI aren’t equipped to do the job they do?
Bishan Singh Bedi: They are not equipped and they are not accountable, that’s the worst part of it.
Karan Thapar: So both unequipped and un accountable?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yeah and unaccountable that is the worst part of it, unequipped definitely. Now I can tell you, I will site an example. We have an absolute and nincompoop of a media manager who is with the Australian team at the moment. His only criteria to my mind, is that he has collected loads of proxy for his masters in Punjab Cricket Association. That’s why he has got the trip.
Karan Thapar: So he is incompetent?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Incompetent is not the correct word. He is the most inefficient person you can come across.
Karan Thapar: Does this incompetence? Does this nincompoop us to use you word, go higher all the way to the top of the BCCI
Bishan Singh Bedi: Absolutely. I am not kidding honestly.
Karan Thapar: So Srinivasan downwards?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Well, let me tell you any culture good or bad stems from top to downwards. And any outstanding human being or institution, it goes from bottom to top. That is the principle we work on in every day life.
Karan Thapar: So the rot in the BCCI starts from the top and goes all the way to the bottom?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yeah. They feel that they got loads of money; they can do whatever they want to do. Unfortunately cricket performance on the field is not related to the bank balance that you may have.
Karan Thapar: So the people who runs BCCI have been spoiled by the money they earned?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Well, I would like to think so, yes.
Karan Thapar: Let me explore BCCI’s responsibility, a little further with you. How much of the blame for the present crisis in Indian cricket lies with the four-year old IPL which BCCI has created?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Well, IPL for starter is BCCI’s baby. How can a player representing the country make less money then playing for the club?
Karan Thapar: That’s where the problem begins?
Bishan Singh Bedi: This is what I mean, something wrong. When you are playing for IPL you are making more money and playing for the country making less money. So something is wrong somewhere definitely.
Karan Thapar: So the money that IPL makes available to cricketers has spoiled cricketers and spoiled their ability to play for India properly?
Bishan Singh Bedi: It’s unreal Karan. I promise you, the money that some of the boys are making money, is even the president of the America is not making that kind of money I can assure you that.
Karan Thapar: And this spoiled cricketers?
Bishan Singh Bedi: This has spoiled the overall attitude of the boys. They don’t want to play the Ranji Trophy or the Duleep Trophy, they more keen and rigid for IPL.
Karan Thapar: The second problem that is connected to the BCCI, you are suggesting to me now, is that the result of the focus of the IPL, domestic cricket has become neglected and it is fallen in to decline?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Absolutely. Rajasthan, they won the Ranji Trophy two years in a row and not one of the boys is capable of representing India. Why? There is something grossly wrong with our domestic cricket. Now the Vijay Hazare tournament is going on at the moment. I wish you could spare some time to see the matches, the kind of the wickets they have, the kind of ground they are playing on. Yesterday one kid dived and picked up a brilliant catch. But the side of his face is absolutely smashed because he is diving on a bloody rotten ground.
Karan Thapar: And this is because BCCI doesn’t spend money on the facilities on the pitches and on encouraging and promoting domestic cricket?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Listen, they are spending money but there is no way to monitor it.
Karan Thapar: So it is wasted?
Bishan Singh Bedi: It is. You don’t know where the money is going.
Karan Thapar: It is either wasted on misspend?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Misused.
Karan Thapar: It’s going into people’s pocket?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Well, I don’t have to say that in so many words. But I have nothing have nothing else to say, to be very honest.
Karan Thapar: Let’s move the discussion a little further. Let’s come to the team that service. There is a tremendous concern about the team and its performance today. Let me ask you bluntly, do you think the time has come when the selectors should drop senior players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman?
Bishan Singh Bedi: You think they have the guts to do it?
Karan Thapar: You don’t think they have the guts?
Bishan Singh Bedi: No. Now tell me look at the composition of the selectors, they are all zonal based selectors. Apart from Mahendera Amarnath as of now, I can’t think of four of others who have got the capacity, acumen or the gut to take that kind of decision.
Karan Thapar: So you are saying a very important thing. The selectors are too weak that they don’t have the guts, capacity to drop the senior players like Tendulkar?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Selectors don’t have the character themselves to do something for the benefit for the Indian cricket . Some body else calling the shots, let me assure you that.
Karan Thapar: Whose is calling the shorts?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Well, I think the President of the BCCI, is far too powerful, honestly.
Karan Thapar: So the selectors are dummies and they do what the president wants.
Bishan Singh Bedi: I don’t want to pull the ground like that but honestly they are restless, if I may say so.
Karan Thapar: But you are saying, the second thing that is very important. A, you are saying that the selectors don’t have the capacity to drop the senior players but secondly you are suggesting that if they did have the capacity and guts then senior players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman should be dropped?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Well, if the performance as we see it now, that suggests yes, Indian can take a decision like Australian have done it.
Karan Thapar: Like Ricky Ponting
Bishan Singh Bedi: Like in the case of Ricky Ponting. But do you think we will do it? No way, honesty no way.
Karan Thapar: Can I ask you bluntly, as someone who understand the game probably better then most people. Someone who’s been a captain, a manager, as someone who cares about the game. Has the time has come to drop Sachin?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Listen, Karan, to be very honest on this particular issue. I know lot many people have said lot many things about Sachin Tendulkar and I would like to think that we, when I say we, I mean the journalists, the media and the former cricketers. We are pigmies compare with the giant called Sachin Tendulkar. Now the only person who can sit in judgment for Sachin Tendulkar is ‘Tendulkar’ himself. Whether he wants to carry on or he wants to call it a day. We can’t even tie his bloody shoelaces. He is such a great player honestly. Having said that, I would like to know how many of us, I am not getting carried away what is going on in the media, I feel that the board must have enough gumption to take on Tendulkar and Tendulkar himself also should be able to decided.
Karan Thapar: Let me clarify what you are saying. Are you saying that like The Hindu newspaper has said that Sachin must be allowed to choose his own time of departure or are you saying that may be not the selectors but the board must get in touch with Sachin and must say to him, it’s time to go. Which of two are you saying?
Bishan Singh Bedi: You think that the board will get down to that kind of business?
Karan Thapar: But should the board get down?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Why not ? But my only apprehension is would the board have that kind of character to do it?
Karan Thapar: But you are saying it should have that character?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Why not?
Karan Thapar: But you are also saying that Sachin can’t decided his own time of departure?
Bishan Singh Bedi: No, he must.
Karan Thapar: No, but you are saying two contradictory things?
Bishan Singh Bedi: I know, I am saying two contradictory things but honestly between the two, I would prefer Sachin taking his own decision.
Karan Thapar: Alright, between the two. Between the board deciding and Sachin deciding for himself, you think Sachin should be allowed to decided?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yes.
Karan Thapar: What happened, if Sachin doesn’t decide. A lot of people have seen him play thirty innings without getting a century?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Agreed. In that case, it’s the board’s prerogative.
Karan Thapar: So, if Sachin doesn’t decide for himself, it is the boards prerogative.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yes, there is nothing wrong with it.
Karan Thapar: You are very clear now?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yeah.
Karan Thapar: Give Sachin a change to decided for him self but if he doesn’t or won’t then it is the board’s prerogative.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Prerogative, why not?
Karan Thapar: Have we got to a point, where it’s become the board’s prerogative because Sachin hasn’t decided?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Not quit yet. I have seen Sachin play in couple of test matches and he been middling the ball pretty well. It’s just that this monkey on his back, this100th hundred. Mind you this is not just on his back; this is on the every Indian breathing.
Karan Thapar: How much more time would you give Sachin before you decide, the board has to now exercise its prerogative?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Let him come back from this tour. If I was Sachin, I promise you I don’t think, I would have taken this one day competition at all.
Karan Thapar: You are saying let him come back from this tour and then decide immediately?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yeah, give him time.
Karan Thapar: How much time?
Bishan Singh Bedi: There is nothing on after this tour. So give him a little time to decide for himself.
Karan Thapar: I understand, give him couple of week.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yeah give him a month or two.
Karan Thapar: In other words don’t let him feel as if he has to do it under pressure, give him time?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yeah, this is what I mean .
Karan Thapar: But you are also saying that before the next series he should have made up his mind?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Most definitely and I think he will because I feel we as a nation are terrible ungrateful the contribution that this little fellow have made.
Karan Thapar: Gratitude requires you give him time?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Most definitely.
Karan Thapar: Mr Bedi let’s come to the captain of the team Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Eight straight test matches lost one after another. Four of them innings defeats, the situation that India hasn’t faced since the sixties. Do you think the time has come for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to be replaced as test captain?
Bishan Singh Bedi: This again is the job of the selectors. I don’t wish to pressurise him, I don’t have anything to do with that kind of a decision. But personally speaking he might have had his day.
Karan Thapar: Might have had his day?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yeah.
Karan Thapar: In other words you are saying that if you were a selector, you would be looking for a new Test captain.
Bishan Singh Bedi: I think, yes, there is definitely room for a new Test captain.
Karan Thapar: People say that Dhoni has all the right instincts for one day captain but he doesn’t have the temperament to be the test captain. Would you agree with that?
Bishan Singh Bedi: It’s not a question of temperament. Let me cite an example Benaud once said, the Australian Captain, he said captaincy is 90 per cent luck, 10 per cent ability. But then he said I wouldn’t go for the 90 per cent if I didn’t have the 10 per cent, alright. Here is a case where the entire thing is dependent upon 100 per cent luck.
Karan Thapar: And Dhoni has run out of luck?
Bishan Singh Bedi: I think he has.
Karan Thapar: And that’s the reason why he needs to be replaced?
Bishan Singh Bedi: No not only that. His performance both in front and behind the stumps leaves a lot to be desired.
Karan Thapar: Now at the moment the press is full of stories, even though Dhoni himself has denied them, that there is a rift in the team, with Dhoni on one side, and the senior players and his vice-captain Virender Sehwag on the other side. Has this situation also undermined his captaincy?
Bishan Singh Bedi: To a certain extent, yes. I think he has himself to blame for that because he was the first one to go to the media, and you know.
Karan Thapar: You are referring to the comment where he said senior players can’t be together because you need younger legs?
Bishan Singh Bedi: Yeah, that’s what I mean. Leadership is all about keeping the team together, not allowing them to drift away in different directions.
Karan Thapar: Dhoni did not exercise leadership when it was needed?
Bishan Singh Bedi: No, Dhoni was struggling. And I have never been a great fan of Dhoni as a captain too, to be honest, whether it’s one day matches, whether it’s Test cricket, I have never been a great fan of his, for the simple reason, to my mind, he is far too negative a captain, to be captaining India.
Karan Thapar: You are also saying something else. You are saying that those critical comments about senior players should not have been made in public.
Bishan Singh Bedi: No, not at all. But then Sehwag went and he did the same thing. Two wrongs don’t make one right, and with the result, we made a lot of things in print media, that the boys going all over the place, the younger ones, particularly. Okay, I told you earlier, what is our stupid media-manager doing there? What is our coach doing there? You know these two posts – coach is a professional chap, but the media manager and the manager of the team, they are unprofessional for the team.
Karan Thapar: So people who could have contained the situation have actually failed to do so and let it get worse.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Of course it is. Now you can’t recover. Now India needed to win last two games to win this competition. Now I, honestly, I can’t see it happening.
Karan Thapar: You are also saying that the situation now has gone beyond the control of Dhoni as captain and this is one other reason why we need to be looking for a new captain.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Most definitely, because, this is again where Dhoni is captaining the team in Chennai which belongs to the Board president. And the chairman of the selection committee is also an ambassador for the same team. You don’t need rocket science.
Karan Thapar: There are too many conflicting interests.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Of course. This is exactly what I am telling you.
Karan Thapar: Transparency is missing.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Absolutely. You can’t have your own Johnies who are revolving around you all the time. Sycophancy cannot work on a field which is performance-oriented, let me tell you that.
Karan Thapar: These conflicting interests suggest corruption of some sort.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Well, it’s a social corruption; it’s a cricketing corruption, alright. I am not talking about the finance involved in it. No. Had Indians done well in this particular tour of Australia, perhaps, this could have been covered up.
Karan Thapar: But defeat makes it worse.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Defeat makes it unbearable. It makes it worse, it makes it unbearable. You can’t have people like Pravin Kumar or this fellow, Raina and they belong to your clique.
Karan Thapar: Too many cliques in cricket.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Far too many undesirable cliques in cricket. And it has to change. And it has to come from top. It has to come from top.
Karan Thapar: Bishan Singh Bedi, a pleasure talking to you.
Bishan Singh Bedi: Thank you.