From having the proverbial 'gift of the gab' to being a rebellious political leader - Navjot Singh Sidhu has come a long way with a very significant career in both sports and politics. Born of October 20, 1963, Navjot Singh Sidhu is known for his catchy one-liners, entertaining couplets and his ability to speak non-stop on matters close to his heart.
No matter how excellent the former cricketer has been on field, later as a commentator and then in television show, Sidhu has been in limelight for a while espescially he announced to step down as the Punjab Congress chief nearly a month after taking charge.
As a cricketer, Sidhu devoted 19 years to the sport and is widely renowned for his six-hitting abilities during his playing days which earned him the nickname of 'Sixer Sidhu'. Navjot was equally lethal in Test cricket as well, scoring over 500 Test runs thrice (1993, 1994 and 1997) during his playing career. Back in 1997, he also smashed a Test double century during India's tour of West Indies.
As the Congress leader turns 58 this year here's a quick look at his sports, television and political career:
Navjot Singh Sidhu in Cricket:
A quintessential Punjabi from Patiala, Sidhu was and still is the example of the clan of people who enjoy their life to the hilt. On the cricket field however, he was a combination of a vulture who enjoyed feasting on spinners and at times, could be as patient as a grandfather. Sidhu began playing first class cricket at the age of 18 for his native state. He got a look into the national side as an opening batsman against West Indies in the Ahmedabad Test in 1983.
Unafraid by the initial failure, Sidhu went back to the grind of domestic cricket and was picked up in the 1987 World Cup squad. This time he repaid the selector's faith by scoring 4 consecutive half centuries in the competition. To his credit, India won all the 4 matches and lost in the semi final against England where Sidhu got out on 22. Scoring fifties and giving a solid start to the Indian innings became a highlight of his ODI career and he ended with 33 half centuries.
Notably, Navjot Sidhu despite having played international cricket for more than 15 years was never given a leadership role.He was always considered a ‘loner’ who preferred to ‘occupy a corner’ in the dressing room.
Sidhu finally announced his retirement in 1998/99 and given the fact that he was an articulate man, landed a job as a commentator for a reputed television channel.
His lack of communication with the team apparently led to the infamous 1996 incident that Captain Amarinder Singh referred to in his barb at Navjot Sidhu. He rebelled against Indian cricket team captain Mohammed Azharuddin and returned home mid-tour. Later, it was found that he mistook a comment made by Azharuddin as an expletive.
Navjot Sidhu as commentator and entertainer:
Sidhu started his career as a commentator when India toured Sri Lanka in 2001. As a commentator, Sidhu was noted for his one-liners, which came to be known as "Sidhuisms".
After he was sacked from ESPN-Star for swearing on air, Sidhu was signed up for commentary on Ten Sports. He also regularly appeared as an expert on various Indian news channels. Sidhu started to work again for ESPN Star Sports in 2012. He was a part of the team that commentated for Sony during the 2014 season of the Indian Premier League.
Sidhu also appeared as a judge on the television programme The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. He also appeared in other similar programmes, such as Funjabi Chak De. He has acted in a TV series called Kareena Kareena as himself. He was a contestant on the reality show Bigg Boss 6, and had to make an exit from the show on account of political grounds in 2012.
Later, in 2013, Sidhu was seen in the one of the famous comedy show Comedy Nights with Kapil as a permanent guest until the show ended in 2016. He was seen as a permanent guest on The Kapil Sharma Show season 1 and 2 and Family Time With Kapil Sharma.
In early 2019, Sidhu caused controversy when he was interpreted as supporting Pakistan, in his response to the Pulwama Terrorist Attack that killed 40 personnel of India's border security forces. He was asked to leave season 2 of The Kapil Sharma Show that he had been a permanent guest on for a long time, and was replaced by Archana Puran Singh.
Navjot Singh Sidhu in politics:
Sidhu stepped into politics after he won a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket from the Amritsar seat in the 2004 Indian general elections. After resigning due to a court case against him, he stood again after the ruling stayed. He won a by-election with a good majority.
LK Advani was then the tallest leader of the BJP. But in 10 years, BJP’s leadership passed on to the next-general leaders led by Narendra Modi.
Sidhu’s parliamentary constituency was passed on to Arun Jaitely. Sidhu felt challenged the same way as he did in the 1996-incident when he thought his cricket captain undermined his stature. Sidhu rebelled and refused to contest from any other seat except Amritsar. His rebellion landed him in the Congress ahead of the 2017 Punjab Assembly election.
Navjot Singh Sidhu took the oath as a member of the Rajya Sabha on 28 April 2016. As per reports, Sidhu was given the Rajya Sabha nomination in a bid to prevent him from joining the Aam Aadmi Party. However he resigned from the Rajya Sabha on 18 July 2016.
On 2 September 2016, Sidhu along with Pargat Singh and Bains brothers formed a new political front - Aawaaz-e-Punjab claiming to fight against those working against Punjab.
In January 2017, Sidhu joined the Indian National Congress. Contesting from Amritsar East in the 2017 Punjab Assembly elections, he won the election by a margin of 42,809 votes. Third on the list of nine ministers who were sworn in was Navjot Singh Sidhu, the cricketer-turned-politician who quit the BJP last year.
On 23 April 2019, the Indian Election Commission banned Sidhu from election campaigning for 72 hours for violating the model code of conduct. Earlier the Commission issued a notice to Sidhu for seeking votes on religion lines at a rally in Katihar district of Bihar.
On 14 July 2019, Sidhu tweeted a copy of his resignation from the Punjab Cabinet, dated 10 June 2019 and addressed to Rahul Gandhi. On 20 July 2019, the then Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Punjab Governor V.P. Singh Badnore accepted Sidhu's resignation. Later, Sidhu openly criticised the Punjab Government about their handling of the Sacrilege Case, however the party termed it as a diversity of views.
On 18 July 2021, Sidhu was appointed as President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee replacing Shri Sunil Jakhar.
On 28 September 2021, Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned as Punjab Congress President soon after Amarinder Singh resigned as the chief minister amid a bitter rival with Sidhu. Navjot sent his resignation letter to the party chief Sonia Gandhi but high command rejected his resignation.
Since then the Congress in Punjab has divulged into a crisis situation and is looking forward to gear up ahead of the assembly elections in March 2022.