It is quite difficult to believe, but the flamboyant Navjot Singh Sidhu had a quiet slow and
sedate start to his cricketing career. A famous article was written about him after a really bad
Test debut with the West Indies in 1983.
It called him a “Strokeless wonder”. Sidhu was in the wilderness for a good four years and when he made his debut in ODIs in 1987, he grabbed it with both hands, hitting five sixes in his very first match. Sixes were not that common as that in the 1980s. Sidhu was probably the first real ODI nemesis for global spinners.
I still remember him dancing down the track and hitting them effortlessly out of the park. It was a trademark Sidhu strategy. Legendary Aussie spinner Shane Warne had famously declared that Sidhu and Sachin Tendulkar gave him nightmares.
The virulently pro-Sachin Indian media edited out Sidhu’s name and in the years to come it was repeated a thousand times that only Sachin gave Shane nightmares. Sidhu’s role was unfortunately totally omitted. By1996, Sidhu had 6 ODI centuries and many scores in the 80s and 90s at a time when most Indian batsmen had at the most 2-3 ODI centuries.
The same sports writer now wrote another article this time calling him a “Strokeless wonder to palm-grove hitter”. After that Sidhu faded into oblivion being replaced by Sourav Ganguly in Tests and becoming a strokeless wonder once again in the ODI domain to retire ingloriously.
When he began his second innings as an English commentator nobody gave him much chance. Sidhu wasn’t particularly known for his English-speaking skills. In fact in one of the earliest match analyses, a colleague of his spotted a large notebook in which he had written down English phrases.
Not a great beginning for viewers who watched that particular broadcast, one must say. However again as the years went by Sidhu proved that when it came to English commentary: He was a palm-grove hitter and not a strokeless wonder. The confidence he has shown is simply amazing and very soon the legend of “Sidhuisms” was born. How many commentators can boast of that?
Deep Dasgupta is as confused as a child in a topless bar.
Pitches are like wives. You never know which way they will turn!
Eddie Nichols is like a man who cannot find his own buttocks with his two hands.
The third umpires should be changed as often as nappies and for the same reason.
Ganguly has thrown a drowning man both ends of the rope.
The ultimate irony was once when he was shooting non-stop questions to his propah Brit commentator colleague, the latter asked him to stop bullying him because his English wasn’t as good as Sidhu’s! However it wasn’t to last and he was sacked over his over the top remarks. But then the flamboyant Punjabi switched seamlessly from English to Hindi.
He established himself as an IPL Hindi commentator and continued spouting his Sidhuisms—only this time in a different language. He became a staple of the Hindi comedy show Comedy Nights with Kapil and dazzled with his one-liners there too.
Kapil’s “Babaji ka thullu” and Sidhu’s “Thoko taali” have both become legendary. In between all this he managed to juggle yet another career: The intense world of Indian politics. Here also Sidhu has lived in extremes. In one sense he is a palm-grove hitter.
He won the Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar in both 2004 and 2009 apart from being nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2016. He is an excellent spokesperson and when he speaks, all the cameras follow him and pity the political opponent who is at the firing end. But one must say that in terms of achievements he has been strokeless wonder.
What exactly has he done in Indian politics? What have been his concrete contributions? One can’t think of any. In 2013 in Amritsar his opponents had put up posters saying that he had gone missing and a reward of Rs 2 lakh would be given if anyone could bring this particular MP to his constituency! Clearly his TV appearances trumped his politics.
Miffed at being denied a Lok Sabha ticket in 2014, Sidhu had been cajoled into accepting an RS ticket and staying with the BJP. This couldn’t have been done without the approval of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A long innings (an RS term lasts 6 years) looked certain. When Sidhu took the oath of office in April, all seemed well.
But as early as July, Sidhu has quit from the RS! He is really a rolling stone who gathers no moss. Or to quote a Sidhuism, he can slip from your hands like butter from a parantha! Will he return to the BJP or join the Congress? One report said that a BJP leader suggested a compromise formula of sending Sidhu as High Commissioner to the UK or maybe even Canada.
Everyone is still guessing. He came out with a press conference which was full of sound and fury and signified nothing. He blasted the BJP, did some shayari, but revealed absolutely nothing about his future plans. That press conference seemed nothing more than hitting sixes while batting in the nets.
Currently all reports indicate that he will definitely join the AAP. Speculation is that he is still bargaining for the Punjab Chief Minister’s post or a Rajya Sabha ticket or something else. But then Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has to be careful.
He will be expecting a palm-grove hitter, but he may end up with a strokeless wonder in his new party. You see, like pitches, you never know which way Sidhu will turn!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here