He led the Self Respect Movement

V. SUDERSHAN

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi's walk was imitated, his manner of pushing up his collar copied, but it was impossible to bat like him. For that you needed to be open-chested, a natural ball player (he excelled at snooker and squash too), and have a part of the cap pulled over your right eye. In later years, very briefly — especially in that World Cup onslaught against Waqar Younis in Bangalore — Ajay Jadeja brought back the Tiger flavour especially when lofting the ball. By Suresh Menon.

When I took over as Sports Editor of Indian Express (it was a single entity then, from Chandigarh to Kochi), one of the first people I met was Tiger Pataudi. As we sat in his Dupleix Road bungalow in Delhi, I realised that, professionally, I was in a similar situation to his when he took over as India captain — every single member of the team was older than him! Barring a couple, I was younger than most of my team. “How do you deal with that?” I asked.

“Back the youngsters,” Tiger said. “The seniors will always be resentful that you superseded them. I had Jai and Pras and Farokh and others I knew would be the core of the Indian team over the next generation. I had their support, and the couple of seniors who were openly resentful had to fall in line.”

Whether it was because he had to deal with his physical handicap from a very young age or because it was something in the Nawabi temperament, Tiger was a practical man. This pragmatism meshed well with his romantic approach to cricket — he once asked the opposition to bat on winning the toss just to see what would happen and for no other reason!

Pataudi (extreme right) leading his men out in the Madras Test against Australia in the 1964-65 series.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Cricket meant everything to him, but it wasn't everything to him. It is important to appreciate the distinction to understand Tiger. Keith Miller's famous response to the question of pressure in cricket — “pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing cricket is not,” might have been uttered by Tiger Pataudi, although the contexts differ. Miller was speaking of his war exploits. Personal tragedies give one a perspective denied to those who think sport is a matter of life and death — and much more.

After his car crash, Tiger wasn't even aware that he had injured his eye. He was more worried about his shoulder which had crashed into the windscreen. After a match at Hove, some Oxford players went out for a Chinese meal, and were returning to the hotel in a car driven by wicketkeeper Robin Waters. A short distance from the hotel, three of the players decided to get out and walk back since it was a lovely evening. “But I was feeling too lazy,” recalled Tiger.

As soon as they started up again, a car pulled out into the road and hit them straight on. Waters had a few scratches, and a splinter entered Tiger's eye.

We'll miss you... young cricketers paying tribute to Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, during a condolence meeting.-PTI

When you read about Indian players returning from an important tour with a stomach problem or pulling out of matches on flimsy pretexts, it is sobering to realise that Tiger Pataudi was making his Test debut within six months of that crash. Pressure is a splinter in the eye.

Tiger had to scale down his ambition — and here was a fine lesson in making the best of what you have rather than craving for what cannot be. He might not challenge his father as a batsman but he would aim to be his superior as a fielder, although in the covers and not at slip, his first love.

“Isn't it a coincidence that after your first series, you didn't really have to face an express fast bowler till your last?” I asked once, provoking Tiger's lop-sided grin, the amused look and the casual response: “How do you think I lasted so long, bugger?”

But this was being modest. Tiger had a problem with flighted spin early in his innings, but since the best spinners were in his side, that wasn't such a problem internationally. He did play the England quicks on the county circuit, and led Sussex to a win over the West Indies tourists in 1966. His batting against Graham McKenzie in Australia so impressed an elderly lady that she recalled having watched him play in the bodyline series of 1932-33. That, of course, was his father — but there would have been similarities.

Masterly knock. Indian captain Pataudi pulls Ashley Mallet to the boundary during his innings of 95, in the first Test at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay in the 1969-70 series against Australia. Wicket-keeper Brian Taber looks on.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Still, Tiger's legacy will not be his batting or even his fielding. It will be in an attitude — his greatest contribution is the self-belief he instilled in Indian players. He led the Self Respect Movement that gave the players dignity, confidence and the ability to look the world in its eye.

His walk was imitated, his manner of pushing up his collar copied, but it was impossible to bat like him. For that you needed to be open-chested, a natural ball player (he excelled at snooker and squash too), and have a part of the cap pulled over your right eye. In later years, very briefly — especially in that World Cup onslaught against Waqar Younis in Bangalore — Ajay Jadeja brought back the Tiger flavour especially when lofting the ball.

For years I didn't believe the dacoit story (the fake dacoit story) involving the shooting down of Prasanna and the trauma of Gundappa Viswanath — till the main actors in the drama confirmed it. Likewise with another typical Tiger story. He was the guest at an important annual cricketing event, but the privileges didn't extend to laundry services.

Everything else — food, drink, transport — was on the house. After the tournament, Tiger let it be known that he would not be available the following year, and in his subtle way made the organisers understand it had to do with laundry. Those days, Tiger's presence was necessary for the credibility and success of the tournament.

For a noble cause... Bishan Singh Bedi, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Virender Sehwag with polio affected children at the Feroze Shah Kotla in New Delhi.-V.V. KRISHNAN

The organisers relented and wrote him a fawning letter apologising and promising that he could use the hotel's laundry service free of cost.

I can visualise that lop-sided grin now.

For weeks and months following that, Tiger (and whoever else he could involve including family) ensured that all dirty laundry would be packed away.

He landed at the venue with something like 18 suitcases of dirty laundry, and proceeded to get the whole lot dry cleaned at the organisers' expense. Such a polite way of saying ‘Thank You' (or something that rhymes with it).

I last spoke to Tiger a couple of months ago. He was following the progress of my biography of Bishan Bedi. I had long ago told him how I would cheat on his behalf when I was playing indoor cricket or book cricket at the age of six or seven. “I always ensured you made a double hundred or a triple even,” I told him proudly. “Thanks,” said Tiger simply. I felt vindicated.