25 September, 2011

Goodbye Pat

It was the fag end of the career. 1975 was the year. It was the fourth test. Chepauk on Pongal day. Clive Lloyd has just begun the journey of taking the West Indies to world beater status for more than a decade. Vivian Richards and Gordon Greenidge made their debuts in that series. Andy Roberts had exploded on to the scene and was the start of a whole generation of fast bowlers the likes of which the game had never seen.

West Indies had won the first two tests convincingly. Those days, India was not really a world force. India had turned to the Nawab to lead them , once again in that series, for only he could knit a fractious Indian team into something resembling a national side. And how he did. In a game where Andy Roberts was virtually unplayable, where Vishwanath stood alone for his 97, one of the greatest Test innings of all time and where Prasanna, Bedi and Chandra conjured to take India to a famous win. The Nawab was the captain who made it all happen.

Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi was a man born to lead. He was a prince after all - the real article. One of the most handsome men of India, he was unfortunate to lose an eye in a car accident. To play cricket at the topmost level with one eye is an almost unthinkable feat. A whole generation of boys grew up wanting to look like him, walk like him  and mimic his open eyed stance which he adopted because he could see with only one eye. The first true cricketer hero of India.

Cricket was still an aristocratic game those days. But just about. He was the last of royalty who played the game - Ranjitsinghji, Duleepsinghji, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram, his own father Pataudi Sr ,had all graced the turf before him. He carried a princely air about him, that only comes from being born a prince. Nobody would dream of doing a practical joke on him and everybody called him sir, even in the dressing room. There wasn't a sight better than when he led the team out, he with the royal walk and the team following a respectful ten paces back. 

Easily the most desirable bachelor in the land, it was but natural that he married the most beautiful lady of that time. The first truly celebrity couple. He one of the finest cricketers and she one of the best actresses in Bollywood. Mansur Ali Khan and Sharmila Tagore were simply the most glamorous couple in the country. Their children chose to follow their mother into the silver screen - Saif Ali Khan is one of the top actors on the screen. Alas there won't be another Pataudi walking out to lead India again.

The abiding memory of Pat would be the Indian team that he built. Gavaskar at No 1. Vishwanath at No 4. Solkar inventing the forward short leg position where he held some incredible catches. Prasanna, Bedi, Chandra and Venkat weaving their magic of spin on bewildered opponents. And Pat himself patrolling he covers where he swooped on the ball like no one else could - hence the nickname of Tiger. And captaining the team with the raising of an eyebrow. What a world that was.

Farewell Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi. The Nawab is dead; Long live the Nawab, we should say. But where is the new Nawab to hail?

Mansur Ali Khan died on September 22nd, at the age of 70.

13 comments:

Viji said...

Truly fitting tribute. While I started following cricket with the advent of Kapildev, Pataudi was an icon about whom we have heard legends. One area probably which has been missed out in your lovely tribute is in the area of expert comments - this is one aspect where we were fortunate to listen to his insightful comments. He was a class apart - one who chose to say the right things at the right time and not go on and on in the name of giving expert comments.
His humour laced with sarcasm, when India floundered, was a listener's delight.
A great writeup Ramesh.

Ramesh said...

@Viji - Thanks Viji. I suppose he had class all over him a rare quality in sportspersons and perhaps one that controbuted to his allure.

Deepa said...

I was hoping you write about him. I've heard about him from the senior generation, or read about him here and there, but his aura is unmistakable. I've only heard about his game and his witty charm, but I have to say that not all royals are regal. I guess some people are just built that way. Not too many of his grace are to be found these days, even in the blue-blooded community.

hemarao said...

Have not seen him play. Would have been something to watch someone from the royal clan on the field. Sweet post. Amen!

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CMK said...

Good tribute to a true icon.

The first test match I saw was the one he lead with Sobers leading the opposite side. Can still remember him hiiting Wes Hall for boundaries. Immediately he became the first cricket hero. Also watched the test match where GRV made that immortal 97 which he captained expertly and won the match.

Many Ranji and Duleep trophy matches drew a large crowd including many ladies if he was playing in them.

Yes many grew up trying to imitate his mannerisms. Many tried playing with the cap perched at an angle; tried walk like him - though none played like him.

He was a legend even to the legends like GRV, SMG and others. His expert commentating was a lesson - which alas no one picked up.

His rare editorials for 'Sportsworld' were gems.

RIP Mansur Ali Khan Nawab Saab

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Yes, grace is acutely in short supply. Pataudi was the epitome of grace - actaully both he and Sharmila.

@Hema - Those days cricket was a different sport. Watching Pat was a privilege , but alas, those days India mostly lost :(

@CMK - Beautiful comment. Maybe we crossed each other in Chepauk on that wonderful POngal day in 1975

Vishal said...

Lovely post and beautiful comments from Viji and CMK!

Tend to go with Deepa and Hema. Although I am an unrelenting cricket fan, have not seen much of him. Honestly, he truly depicted a king size style in life - on field and off field. Grace and elegance are the perfect words for him.

Though we lost mostly during those days, guys like Pataudi sahab were the ones from whom several budding stars drew inspiration in times when the facilities were not so great and money did not drive the cricket.

Reflections said...

Beautiful Post and a fitting tribute!!!!

Thanks for sharing Ramesh!!!!

p.s: Lovely picture, hadnt seen this one in any of the articles I came across:-).

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - Yes, his playing days was before your time. Certainly the spin quartet of Prasanna, Bedi, Chandr and Venkat came to the fore under him.

@Reflections - Thank u Thank u

who else can that be??? :) said...

oh no new posts?? :o i came here twice to read something new, n got surprised that my effects got rubbed off on u :P

Ramesh said...

@sulo - Sorry; have been tardy. Will remedy.

Much honoured that a cheery breezy gerl (word coutesy Preeti shenoy) actually finds this blog interesting

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