Nawab of Pataudi... one of a kind
By: Yajurvindra Singh
MiD DAY recalls the cricketing exploits, expertise and endeavour of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi as he turns 70 today
Today is the 70th birthday of one of the greatest cricketers seen not only in India, but around the world Nawab Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi. Tiger, to his friends!
The greatness of Tiger is not through what a layman would judge cricket statistics but the challenge that he overcame to perform at the highest level of the game.
MAK Pataudi executing a rasping drive for Oxford University against Surrey at the Oval in June, 1961.
Tiger just out of college as a youngster was rated as one of the most exciting young cricketers in the world. He had scored a scintillating century against the world's most dreaded fast bowler, Fred Trueman. Shortly thereafter, he met with a cruel blow of a car accident and a tiny glass particle damaged his retina.
Most people with his wealth and education would have found solace in the comfort of their palace and family fortune. But the young Nawab of Pataudi was of a different DNA.
He did not reveal his discomfort as regards his vision. Fortunately for the cricketing world, there was no serious physical fitness tests. Tiger would have definitely been a non-starter as he was seeing two balls. Years later, when I asked him about how he saw the correct ball, he jokingly said that the inner one would be the natural choice as that was closer and it proved correct. Imagine a ball (actually two of them) from either Wes Hall, Roy Gilchrist, Charlie Griffith or all the famous fast bowlers, being hurled at nearly 100mph on an uncovered wicket, with no protection and following the back foot no-ball rule of that time. The bowlers overstepped the front crease and actually bowled from not 22 yards, but 18 yards.
Against these odds, Tiger decided to cover his bad eye with the cap and play with only his good one and became India's best batsman in the 1960s. His slim, graceful movements, debonair looks and royal presence brought thousands of spectators to grace his majesty's darbar, the cricket ground. He went on to play for India for nearly 15 years, scored nearly 3000 Test runs in 46 Test matches, leading India in 40 of them.
Colin Milburn, the burly England batsman lost his left eye in an accident which ended his international career. I was fortunate to meet Milburn during India's tour to England in 1979. He told us how great Tiger must have been as a cricketer, as when he lost his eye, he thought he would be able to make a comeback but failed miserably.
Today, we all realise the importance of the famous hand-eye co-ordination as Sehwag has blossomed with these adjectives. Tendulkar's tenure is marvelled and Dhoni's captaincy is admired, but how can one weigh the genius of a man who was considered to be one of the best fielders in the world, a shrewd captain, who won the first overseas Test and series for India (vs NZ in 1967-68) and was brought back to play for India against the West Indies in 1974-75 only for his captaincy?
The great Don Bradman summed it up beautifully to him in the Green Room at Melbourne after Tiger's super performance with the bat in both innings of the Test match (75 and 85), where due to a hamstring injury he played one of the most admired knocks ever played on that ground, with one leg and one eye. "I would have been proud to have played some of the shots that you did," said The Don. The true Nawab is still batting on 70, an age when legends have only one milestone and that is a hats-off century.
Good luck, Tiger!
The author is a former Test cricketer, who played for India from 1977 to 1979