Commentary on cricket, politics on reality TV shows, Navjot Singh Sidhu has acquired an astonishing ability to keep everyone upside down about his next move.
With this background, The The current rise of the Punjab Congress Those who have followed the cricketing career through the various incarnations of Sidhu should not be puzzled. Many did not switch from the BJP to the Congress and did not force a change of leadership before the Chief Minister – from his own party – resigned a few days later.
An old teammate from the days he played says it right: “With Sidhu, you don’t know …”
In the days when he was a serious cricketer, Sidhu could never write or punch. He is also famous for his flip-flops.
From the naming of the door batting as the ‘Strokeless Miracle’ to the anointing of the ‘Sixer Sidhu’, and from tongue-tied to clip-speaking, Patiala is no stranger to change. This makes it a little harder to understand the recent political twists and turns of the son of a former Congress politician.
A man returning from the middle of a tour of England has announced his international retirement, accusing then-Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin of continued abuse, but a few days later told the Cricket Board of Inquiry that it was all his fault and he was prepared to bear the consequences of his actions. He continued to be sluggish about his plans, but returned long ago and played under Azhar, whom he blamed for his departure.
Sidhu was considered one of the bravest innings of an Indian for his Test century in Kingston, Jamaica in 1989 against a fast batter of Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop. But at the same time, many who played with him recalled that Sidhu suffered mysterious injuries after seeing a slight green on a pitch. More often than not, he will not come off the field after a long innings, as the 1996 World Cup quarter-final against Pakistan in Bangalore was one of the most popular events.
Twists and turns
Sidhu will always be associated with the events of the 1996 UK tour. To understand the current Sidhu-induced political turmoil in Punjab, it is helpful to review the series of events that brought to the fore the dressing-room maneuver of Indian cricket.
Even for sure, Sidhu’s departure gave Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly a chance to secure their places in the team. So, although this decision was triggered by personal pick, it did some good for Indian cricket in the long run.
But there were strange parallels to the events now taking place in Punjab politics.
Former India all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar, who retired from international cricket a few months before the events in England, has blamed then-captain Mohammad Azharuddin for Sidhu’s demise.
In an interview with The Indian Express during a 1996 tour of the UK, he accused Azhar of trying to “eliminate” anyone who could threaten his position. “If not, why should they choose Kapil (Dev) Baji, Sidhu and me? My suspicion is that his (Azhar’s) next target may be Sanjay Manjrekar.
It may be recalled that Prabhakar, who was taken to the cleaners during the World Cup match against Sri Lanka in Delhi a few months ago, did not play for India again. Azhar was also the captain at the time.
In Punjab too, one can see the same power struggle as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh recently stepped down. The political environment in Punjab is no different, as it was on the Indian team in the mid-90s. Sidhu may not be a senior politician but he is not new to politics.
Going back to 1996, Sandeep Patil, who had recently taken over as the head coach of the Indian team, had expressed his ignorance about Sidhu’s motives and the reasons for his departure. Twenty-five years later, even Congress high-ranking officials are unaware of why Sidhu resigned as chief minister of Punjab in state politics after seeing his resignation as chief minister.
The public can learn about the ways in which the mind of Sidhu will function in the future. He was one of those who refused to divulge any secrets he knew about cricket match-fixing during his time with the Indian team as he did not want to disturb his quiet life after retirement in Patiala. Prabhakar tried to say that his former teammates were fitted with a hidden camera to expose Kapil Tehelka, but Sidhu refused to say anything against the famous all-rounder.
“I’m very clear on this. I’m sitting quietly in Patiala. I’m miles away from these things.
Whoever wanted to stay away from controversy and spotlight now sees him being chased 24 hours a day, or is it some other way?