New Delhi: It was supposed to be an event to celebrate India’s most successful captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But the launch of senior journalist Shantanu Guha Ray’s book, ‘Mahi’, on Tuesday was marred by some questionably-timed comments from former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, who tore into Dhoni and some of his India team-mates.
Asked for his opinion of Dhoni by the author of the book, Bedi, never one to hold back criticism, said: “I am not a big fan of Dhoni but I must surely say that no one has ever enjoyed so much of power and authority from the cricket Board. I believe that not even the great Tiger Pataudi or Sunil Gavaskar had ever enjoyed this kind of power or freedom. It’s nice to be very close to the throne.”
Bedi quoted VVS Laxman’s gripe at the time of his retirement last year to illustrate that Dhoni wasn’t approachable to his team-mates.
“He’s not at all accessible to his team-mates. That’s important for a leader. This has been said by his team-mate, none other than Laxman. Laxman wanted to contact him regarding his retirement, but Dhoni was nowhere to be found,” he said.
When the conversation veered to the brand value of cricketers, Bedi said: “I don’t know much about brands. But once I happened to ask Sir Don Bradman why he never turned professional. He said ‘because I didn’t want to miss out on the fun of the game’. I had goosepimples listening to that. I was the first one, as captain, to clamour for more money for cricketers."
"We used to get Rs 250 per Test match, and once India beat New Zealand in four days, and the Board deducted 50 rupees! If you’re a good cricketer, money will follow you. But if you are only following money, cricket will take the backseat.”
The former left-arm spinner then hit out at what he alleged was a nexus between BCCI president N Srinivasan and some Chennai Super Kings players which afforded them better deals than others.
“Can you compare Cheteshwar Pujara and Suresh Raina? If you can’t compare them, then how can Raina be in Group A of the BCCI’s central contracts while Pujara is in Group B?” Bedi asked.
When it was suggested that this was because Raina is close to Srinivasan, Bedi said, “that’s it”. For the record, Group A contracted players get Rs 1 crore per annum, while Group B players get Rs 50 lakh.
ALSO SEE—Images from New Zealand vs India, 2nd ODI