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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Tiger Tales: 'Having Pataudi in the covers was like having two fielders there'

Tiger Tales: 'Having Pataudi in the covers was like having two fielders there'

Last updated on: October 21, 2011 11:54 IST

'Having Pataudi in the covers was like having two fielders there'

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A Ganesh Nadar

October 22 marks a month since Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi passed into the ages following a brief illness. Veteran journalist K Satyamurthy looks back on some cherished moments he was privileged to share with the former India captain, in conversation with A Ganesh Nadar.

The first time I met the great MAK Pataudi, we were playing opposite each other. I was the captain of the Indian Gymkhana cricket team, while Pataudi played for Bombay Gymkhana.

Pataudi was misunderstood; he was not egoistic, but laid back. He was liberal and open to suggestions. He was laconic, did not say much.

- Pataudi Special: Tiger Tales

One day we were watching a match. Pat and I were sitting in the press box. West Zone was playing North Zone. [Sunil] Gavaskar hit the ball and went for a run. Pataudi said, 'Risky run'. Then, he looked and saw that the ball was going to [Bishan] Bedi. He continued, 'Ah! easy run'.

Yes, he was laconic, famous for his one-liners. He had a great sense of humour.

He insisted that fielding was a weapon that could be wielded aggressively. Having Pataudi in the covers was like having two fielders there. He was a tiger on the field. As a child, he used to crawl very fast, so his father called him 'Tiger'.

When the great Nari Contractor was hit by a [Charlie] Griffith bouncer, the accusation against 'Tiger' was that he did not offer his blood. Asked about it at a press conference later, Pataudi replied: 'My blood did not match, as mine is blue'. Later Contractor himself confirmed that Pataudi was the first to come to the hospital and offer his blood, but the blood group did not match.


Image: Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi

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'That is not fair, you cannot cheat'

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Check out there was this incident that says much about the great batsman. Bhanu Gupta, a musician, was one of our friends; he was a Bengali and his wife, Polly, was also from Bengal. She knew Pataudi's wife, Sharmila, because they were all Bengali. We were all sitting there and Pat's son, Saif, and Polly's son, Tabu, were playing cricket. Tabu was bowling and Saif batting. Saif got out three times but refused to give the bat to Tabu.

Pat used to call Sharmila 'Rinku'. He called out to her, 'Rinku, please go and tell Saif to give the bat to Tabu. He is already out three times. That is not fair, you cannot cheat'. Saif was eight years old then.

I was sitting at the CCI and having tea. The late cricket journalist Rajan Bala was also there with his friends when Pataudi walked in. Rajan asked him to join them and soon started quizzing him.

Pataudi said, 'Why can't you have tea with me like everyone else? Why do you always have some question? Never mind, ask'.

When Rajan asked him if he would like to be a selector, he replied that he would like to be the only selector. Pataudi felt that with regional selectors there was wheeling-dealing, because of which the selection was not always the best team.


Image: Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi with Sharmila Tagore

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'An honour must be given it cannot be asked for'

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Asked why there was no benefit match for him, Pataudi replied: 'They want me to apply for that. I have played 67 Tests and led in 60. They know that I deserve it, but they are waiting for me to ask. It is not that I don't need it. We are all kings of empty coffers, but an honour must be given; an honour cannot be asked for! I will not ask and they will not give.'

Another characteristic of 'Tiger' was that when he went into bat he just took any bat that was available at the time.

In a Zonal match, he was batting in the nineties and Salim Durrani was bowling. The latter flighted the first two balls and the third was a yorker. Pataudi was clean bowled. As he was walking back he told Salim, 'Arre Salimbhai what did you do?'

Salim replied, 'I did what you taught me... to get rid of a set batsman always flight a couple of deliveries and then finish him with a yorker.'

It was Pataudi who made the famous spin quartet that went on to win many a Test for India. He realized that since he did not have great pace bowlers at his disposal, India could win with spin.


Image: Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi

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'My eye was overused; I couldn't spot Andy Roberts's bouncers'

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Udyan Battacharya, one of our colleagues, wanted to invite him home. We asked him and he agreed. Then Udyan wondered what to offer Pataudi. I advised him to buy XXX rum, because I had seen him having it at the Bombay Gymkhana. I also told Udyan that he was not fussy. Pataudi came and enjoyed the rum as we enjoyed listening to his one-line jokes and cricket talk.

EAS Prasanna was the player closest to him in the team; he was also close to Durrani. The last time I met him was at a farewell party at Udyan's house, when Pataudi left Anand Bazaar Patrika.

After playing in the West Indies he quit Test cricket. One day, when we were sitting at the Bombay Gymkhana, he told me, 'My one eye has been overused. I was tired. I could not see Andy Roberts's bouncers; sometimes I lost contact with the ball. That was why I quit.'

Pataudi's passing away is indeed sad. Surely, I will always cherish the moments with him.


Image: Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi

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