Maverick Sidhu courts controversy in every walk of life

Navjot Singh Sidhu is known in cricket circles as an attacking batsman but in life in cricket parlance an “all-rounder” outside the cricket fields. After he bid adieu to cricket, he entered the cozy comfort of the commentary box and his ready wit found him in a comedy show too. The plunge into politics, however, proved his undoing. He lost sight of the oft quoted Dr. Samuel Johnson’s words, “Patriotism is the last refuge for a scoundrel,” while another literary luminary George Bernard Shaw repeated in his own words, “Politics is the last resort for the scoundrel.”

Sidhu made his mark on the national scene as debutant cricketer vs West Indies at Ahmedabad in 1983. He was dubbed as a stroke-less wonder and metamorphosed into soaring-sixes Sikh during the 1987 World Cup. True to his trait, he has courted controversies in whichever field he has ventured over the years.

Soon controversies and Sidhu became part and parcel of his life. During the 1996 tour of England (where the scribe was commentator STAR Sports), he left in huff with Test series about to take off. He was upset with skipper Mohammed Azharuddin for using foul language against him repeatedly. A probe was ordered into the matter. It was left to the then BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele to reveal the truth that that the language used by Azharuddin was common in Hyderabad, at times directed even towards ladies. But being a North Indian, his misunderstanding of the comment led him to accuse captain Azharuddin of abusing him repeatedly. Since scribe the has spent years with Azhar, it was a most fallacious accusation against a gentleman artistic cricketer. Sidhu told the press later in India that he “could not tolerate the repeated affronts to his dignity”. However, the ground realties speak the truth -in the two ODIs that he played on the 1996 tour, Sidhu scored three and 20.

Sidhu’s undoing’s have been recalled by his teammates. They recall that Sidhu courted mysterious injuries after seeing the slightest tinge of green on a pitch. At times, he would not come out to field after a long innings. The classical case is the famous instance of the 1996 World Cup quarter-final against Pakistan at Bangalore.

Sidhu also allegedly hit a 65-year-old man in a dispute over parking in Patiala in 1988. The man later died in hospital and court found him guilty of manslaughter in 2006. He appealed and the Supreme Court convicted him with a small fine for causing hurt but acquitted him of manslaughter in 2018.

After cooling his heels for a while, he found again found comfort in the commentary box when India toured Sri Lanka in 2001. He hit the headlines with his one-liners, which came to be known as “Sidhuisms”.

He was fired by Star Sports after South Africa staged 2003 World Cup when India lost to Australia. Sidhu launched his verbal diarrhea and criticized the Indian team harshly. It led to a backlash at home, the effigies of players were burnt, and their families and homes were attacked.

He made a major faux pas with his unpatriotic and offensive remark after Pulwama attack in Jammu Kashmir in 2019. He had commented, “For a handful of people, can you blame the entire nation and can you blame an individual?” He was axed from ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ following his comments on the Pulwama terror attack.

Sidhu joined BJP in 2004 and successfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Amritsar seat in 2014. His oratory skills proved handy for the party. However, he was left sulking on being denied a cabinet berth. He resigned from the BJP in 2016 and joined Congress next year. He termed his joining Congress as “homecoming” and dubbed himself a “born Congressman”. He was rewarded with a Cabinet post as Minister of Local Government, Tourism and Cultural Affairs of Punjab. However, as a minister he was invariably on different wavelength with the experienced Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh. The bonhomie did not last long and finally ended with a parting kick.

The Congress High Command made abortive attempts to bring warring factions on the same page. At the behest two top leaders at 10, Janpath, Sidhu was made president of Punjab Congress Committee despite opposition from then CM Amarinder Singh. The move backfired and Captain Amarinder Singh parted ways with Congress.

Sidhu may have many feathers in his cap – cricketer, commentator, entertainer and finally politics. During his sojourn in different domains of his life, controversy and drama have followed him like a shadow, irrespective of right or wrong reasons.

Sidhu proved his credentials as a novice in politics during the 2018 Pakistan visit for Imran Khan’s swearing ceremony as Prime Minister of Pakistan. His “behaviour” at the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan in Islamabad had earned him a sharp rebuke from the BJP, his former party, berating him for “hugging” Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, dubbed as “culprit of India” and sitting next to “so-called” president of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) Masood Khan.

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