From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.40 :: Oct. 06, 2011
Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Abbas Ali Baig go out to bat for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy semi-final against West Zone in Hyderabad in 1965.
I was at Oxford when we heard rumours about a prodigy coming up. We were very curious to see how good he was and he lived up to his reputation. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was not always copybook, but his body was always in the right position. He had an idea as to what destiny held for him. I was in a car behind him when he had that accident that cost an eye.
I think it was because of his background that he was appointed the captain. To be honest, he did not impress much in the beginning but grew as a captain over the years. He was a wonderful captain, good at sizing up situations and not afraid to do things differently. He backed his players and only expected them to be careful and not let him down. He could make people respect and love him.
One major contribution of Pataudi as captain was his success in quelling infighting in the team and bringing about a sense of togetherness. He was so confident of the players and their ability to do well. He was quick to realise that India did not have the fast bowling arsenal and wisely invested in spin. And the spinners gave their heart out. Indian cricket was lacking in self-belief but after he took over we started winning matches.
He had a terrific sense of humour and excelled in playing pranks. He had a fascination for my ties and sometimes would pick up one and gift it away to some buddy. Later I would discover that the tie was missing. There were many ties that I never recovered.
What should I say about his dressing! He would not mind borrowing someone's shirt even for parties in the evenings. He later left an impression that he was impeccably dressed, but not as far as cricket gear was concerned. Equipment really did not matter to him. He would take my bat, someone's gloves and sometimes someone's shirt too.
I remember one night. We had been partying (in Barbados) and returned late. The gates were closed. We scaled the wall and, to our horror, landed in front of two ferocious Alsatians. The dogs chased us with both of us sprinting for our lives. It was funny, but scary too.
I can never forget those train journeys when playing in South Zone. Pataudi was in terrific company with Jai (M. L. Jaisimha), Vishy (G. R. Viswanath), Pras (Erapalli Prasanna) and BS (Chandrashekhar). We had fun but knew when to stop. We indulged in cards and he would play his harmonium, and sing too. His favourite song, with complete and appropriate actions, was ‘hawa main udta jaye mera lal dupatta mal mal ka'.
He had a reputation of being adventurous, but he was actually very shy. He was reserved but always civil to everybody. He never shared his secrets and was careful in making friends. It was only afer a tour to the West Indies that he began socialising, going out with women. He had a bit of a roving eye until he met Rinku (Sharmila Tagore). He remained her dedicated partner.
He was a terrific one for one-liners and witty remarks. And most of it was said in a fashion that it went over people's heads. You had to know him to enjoy his sense of humour.
It is a shame that so much is being written and bestowed in his memory now. I wish he had read some of it. If only the cricket establishment had appreciated his contributions better! He deserved much more from the game and its administrators.
He was a dear friend and I would like to remember him as a good human being. We did not meet regularly (in Delhi) but I knew he was always around. And now he is gone…
As told to Vijay Lokapally
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