Former Pakistan captain Intikhab Alam was stunned into silence after hearing about the demise of Indian great Bishan Singh Bedi, his closest friend across the border. Bedi’s death felt like a personal loss for Alam, who spoke to PTI over the phone from Lahore. Their friendship dates back to 1971 when Bedi toured England with the Indian team and Alam, representing Surrey, played the legendary left-arm spinner in a tour game.
In the same year, both Alam and Bedi went on a five month tour of Australia with the World XI squad and it was then their bond grew stronger.
More recently, they reunited at the Kartarpur Sahib in October last year and reminisced the old times.
Alam sighed when he heard about Bedi’s death before gathering his breath to pay tribute to one of the greatest spinners of all time.
“What a great personality he was. A kind hearted person, full of humour. There was never a dull moment when he was around.
“He was of course a world class cricketer but an even better human being. I have lost my closest friend on the other side of the border,” said Alam, who would stay with Bedi whenever he visited Delhi and the Indian would do likewise whenever he was in Lahore.
Following a surgery in March 2021 to remove blood clot in his brain, Bedi could not be his usual self and even in his meeting with Alam in Kartarpur, the latter did most of the talking and also sang their “team song” ‘Louise Armstrong’s When the Saints Go Marching In’.
“Kartarpur was the last time we met. We got so emotional that we cried talking about the old times. Of late, we could not talk over phone (due to Bedis’ health), but my wife was in regular touch with Bishan’s wife. They both also became the best of friends because of our friendship,” said Alam.
Alam also fondly remembered their first meeting at The Oval in London, where India faced Surrey.
“I hit him for a few sixes and he came up to me said ‘there are others in the team as well. Why are you only coming after me?’. We connected from that moment on,” said Alam, who also spent a lot of time with Bedi during their days in county cricket.
However, Alam’s best memories of the Indian wizard are from the long tour of Australia in 1971-1972. The great Sunil Gavaskar and Farokh Engineer also played for the World XI.
“Har roz shaam ko dinner saath mein karte there. We used to eat together and we used to sing together. Since players with multiple personalities were part of the team, we used to sing as a team bonding exercise. When the Saints Go Marching In was our song.
“There were times he used to cook also. I remember him and I cooking for 70-80 people for Rohan Kanhai’s birthday. Memories for lifetime,” said Alam.
Gavaskar is another close friend of Alam’s on the other side of the border.
“Mere dono ke saath hi badi dosti thee (Both were good fiends of mine). Can’t believe Bishan is no more.”
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