The tiger who never crouched

Posted on September 23, 2011


I have not seen the man wield the willow, but have grown up hearing tales about him.

As a kid, reading on Indian cricket occupied a good amount of my time. Honestly, less reading and more pictures gazing. The frozen frames giving work to my imagination, wondering about the build-up to the strokes.  Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was one player who took up a good chunk of my gazing time. Flamboyance lined in almost every shot.

I remember my uncle recalling the press meet after the Madras Test in 1961. He had scored his maiden 100 against Ted Dexter’s English side. A journalist asked the Nawab on what made him believe he could play test cricket after he lost an eye in a car accident at the tender age of 20. “When I saw the English bowl,” the reply came, my uncle said. Pride was filled in his voice. For him Pataudi was the greatest thing which happened to Indian cricket then.

A role model and style icon for youth of that generation, Patuadi instilled belief in his men to win matches abroad. For this, he has the distinction of leading the team to the country’s first test series win, 3-1 in New Zealand. The squad also had an uncapped Sunil Gavaskar, who never got to play.

There could probably be no player of his calibre and guts, facing the deadly Caribbean pacers not just without helmets, but with just one eye.

I feel deprived, not to have watched this man on the field. Setting an example, tales of his fielding do as the same rounds as that of his captaincy.

Todays,The Hindu carried a picture of the Nawab slogging one, probably past square leg, during his unbeaten 128 against the Aussies at the Corporation Stadium in Madras. His eyes fixed. His stance firm and a golf-like swing captured in black and white. I have spent 30 minutes at work gazing at that photograph.

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