Friday, September 23, 2011

Gladiator of Indian Cricket Gone RIP

Imagine leading a team when the ex captain Nari Contractor was felled by a vicious bouncer from Charlie Griffith.  It required the guts of a Nawab to don the robe of a gladiator and lead a team team filled with seniors such as Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar, Farukh Engineer etc.  Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi did not flinch the responsibility rather he must have enjoyed the tenure of captaincy leading the Indian cricket for the next decade.  The most high point of his leadership came when the team won over New Zealand in 1967.

Pataudi had the talent of spotting winners.  He realised that Indian team was not blessed with pace bowlers, its strength lay in spinners.  He groomed Bedi and Prasanna and inducted Chandrashekar and Venkat to make a lethal combination in Indian bowling attack.  The real fruit was harvested by Ajit Wadekar during his famous tour of  West Indies 1971 and England 1972-73  He spotted also spotted the little wizard in Gundappa Vishwanth and gave him a break into Indian team in 1969 against Australia, wherein he scored a duck and century.

Just imagine playing the fearsome pace attack of  Griffith and Halls without much protection.  One can check out in the photographs without helmet, elbow guard or thigh pads, which are basic essential part of the cricket in modern times.   This is precisely the gladiator quality of the Nawab which is difficult to emulate considering the fact that he had lost one eye in a car accident. He was literally seeing two balls, and he used to play the inner one by sheer anticipation and judgement.

Charlie Griffith                                        M.L. Jaisimha  ( Pataudi's close friend )

 Nari Contractor is led off after being struck by Charlie Griffith

G R Vishwanth ( 1969 - 1983 ) Pataudi's find    Nari Contractor Injury resulted in Pataudi's captaincy

 Picture of Bishan Singh Bedi

Cricket which was earlier dominated by Mumbai club was de-centralised by Pataudi to represent pan India. Cricketers were chosen by merit across the length and breadth of the country.  This obviously won him some critics from the powerful lobby.

Pataudi glamorised Indian cricket by marrying bollywood Diva Sharmila Tagore on 27th December 1969.  He is blessed with star son Saif Ali Khan, and actress Soha Ali Khan along with a jewellery designer in Saba.  Pataudi was known to play some pranks with his colleagues off the field.  It was all in good humour, in one such instance Prasanna was alleged to have been shot dead by dacoits, and this sent shivers down the spine of  Vishy and Chandrashekar, who were sobbing.

A true legend finally breathe his last on 22nd September 2011.  He symbolised glamour and gladiator quality of Indian Cricket in an era when draw test was considered to be victory of sorts.  He will be remembered as a fine gentlemen cricketer who gave up snobbishness ( being from Royal Background ) to take Indian cricket to great heights with his fielding prowess and leadership quality. As a parting gesture the Nawab has donated his left eye to a lucky patient ( yet to be decided ).  The gladiator is gone but the legendary Tiger's eye will be alive. Hats Off to the Nawab RIP.

ACK : Wiki, Hindu, TOI.