Saturday, September 24, 2011

THE TIGER ROARS - ONE LAST TIME

Two days ago we were all shocked to hear  of the sudden and untimely death of  one of India's legendary Test Match Captains, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi - the last Nawab of one of India's erstwhile princely states -  poularly known as 'Tiger' Pataudi.  We had seen him on TV just a few weeks back, in England during the recent India - England series, presenting the Pataudi Trophy to the winning team.... and he looked much his usual, regal, dignified self.

There was some talk in the media of the onfield TV Presenter at the ground that day, ex- England captain Michael Atherton, having ignored him.... sounds a little petty, now that he is suddenly  no more, especially when viewed in the overall context of Human Life....

In any case, in my opinion, and I'm sure in that of hundreds of Indians  of my generation, Atherton can  never even dream of matching up to  Pataudi's princely stature, as an imposing personality amongst men, or  that as a cricketer, who took on some of the fiercest fast bowlers of all time with just one good eye ( he was nearly blind in the other )... and a minimum of protective gear...  with loads of style and grace.

My cousin brother Piku wrote me a mail  from the US today.... we'd grown up together, back in the 70's and the 1975 India -West Indies series remains vividly etched in our memories... we absolutely idolised the legendary  cricketers of that era. It also shows how thousands of ordinary people weave their own private memories around the the exploits of famous sportsmen ( or musicians, artists, authors, film personalities...).
I am sure Piku will forgive me for reproducing his beautiful email without permission... mind you, these are memories of a then 10 year old....


"Sorry to dump but memories rushed back when I saw the news of Pataudi's death.

I was ten years old in '74-'75 when Baba took me to my first ever test match at the Eden Gardens. Pataudi had been buttonholed into captaining India against Lloyd's formidable side after a humiliating summer in England. WI had Greenidge, Fredericks, a rookie but destructive Richards and of course the man who breathed fire, Andy Roberts. Lance Gibbs was slowly fading into retirement. It was also the first time a test match was telecast live on many community TV sets.

Anyway, Roberts got rid of Sudhir Naik first ball without bothering the scorers, P Sharma ( the late Parthasarthy Sharma), made an obligatory appearance and then the majestic Vishy ( GRVishwanath) took charge. In between Pataudi was hit on the chin by a brutish lifter by Andy Roberts but promptly dispatched Holder for a towering six that (and I still remember) bounced off the rafters and clubbed a poor housewife on the forehead, probably ending her interest in the game forever! But it was on the final day that Pataudi showed his brilliance by persisting with Chandra when he had been taken to the cleaners earlier on. And once Lloyd and Richards were cleaned up, WI imploded and India won a incredible victory, in great measure due to some incredible captaincy and leading from the front by the Nawaab!

RIP Mak!"


Jay Sanyal, PhD

Lead Software Developer, Ansys Inc.

Absolutely vivid.... Pataudi was recalled out of semi retirement, he hadn't played Test Cricket from 1970 onwards and ( I think ), not much of domestic cricket either, to lead the side against the mighty West Indies. India had just been badly beaten by England in the 1974 series,and our pride had been dented by the ignominy of being bowled out for a mere 42 in the second innings at  Lord's , tortured and tormented by the swing bowling of Geoff Arnold and Chris Old, prompting me and Piku  to compose a parody of our own on the ineptness of our batsman, that went     " India r batsman era / ekebarey marka mara...," sung to the tune of the famous  Harry Belafonte calypso, 'Jamaica Farewell...'

Ajit Wadekar the  Indian captain who'd had a wonderful run till then, anounced his retirement immediately on return to India... and suddenly India were without a leader. In a crisis who better to turn to, than MAK Pataudi....after all,  hadn't he  first taken over the Indian Test captaincy as a  mere 21 year old, in a similar crisis situation, 13 years ago, against a fire breathing West Indies, spearheaded by the pace of Wesly Hall and Charlie Griffith, after a searing Griffith bouncer had felled the then Indian Captain Nari Contractor and ended his Test career....
People said Contractor was lucky to be alive.... it was indeed a baptism by fire for the handsome young prince...

 The 1975 series was special for us too.... Dada ( my elder brother ), was selected in the Indian Universities squad led by Anshuman Gaekwad, to play the West Indies at Indore, in one of their early warm up games. But by the time, the thick sheets of the cyclostyled call up letter from the Universities Sports Board   reached our small hometown, 'tucked away in the middle of nowhere,' as I fondly like to say, the match had already commenced.....

Remember, this was the era prior to the arrival of STD telephones and mobiles weren't even on the horizon... and 'people still wrote letters and sent telegrams in emergencies,' as I'd written in one of my earlier write ups.... and life moved at snail's pace in back of beyond 'moffussil' towns...but this particular delay was heartbreaking , for all of us.
Gaekwad of course, scored a hundred in that match and made his Test debut in the 3rd Test at Calcutta....

 No such luck for Dada, but just the fact that he made it to that team from such a small place and such limited opportunities, when, unlike now, unknown smalltown cricketers were not exactly the flavour of the season in Indian cricket,  was a huge achievement in itself...

 At that time, to 12 year old me, it seemed like the world had come to an end....

The West Indian line up, like Piku mentions, was formidable that year...with Greenidge, Fredricks, Kallicharan, Richards and  Lloyd at the top of the order.. each a legend in his own right... .with Murray, Julien and Boyce to follow and Roberts , Holder And Gibbs bringing up the rear....
I 've always maintained that none of the present day sides have the depth of  talent, or sheer number of  stars that these 70's sides had.... and that was true for almost all  Test  playing Nations...

The recall of 34 year old Pataudi from semi retirement was also typical of the prevailing trend at that time... Australia recalled 42 year old Bobby Simpson to lead the side against India after more than half the side had perished to the Kerry Packer Ban.... and England recalled 45 year old Brian Close to bat against the fearsome Roberts and Holding....

Yet, how magnificently these veterans stood up to those challenges....

Pataudi never really got going in that series, but showed glimpses of his class at the Calcutta Test that Piku so vividly remembers... he scored a courageous 36 there, having been hit on the chin early on, after  having missed the second Test at Delhi with a fractured thumb...
And of course, after losing the first two tests at Bangalore and Delhi, he turned things around completely at Calcutta and Madras, snatching thrilling victories with some brilliant captaincy and great individual performances... and India went into the final Test at Bombay with the series level at 2-2 .. with the  Indian pride and self belief that had taken such a beating in England, fully restored again... thanks in no small measure to Pataudi...

There was no TV those days and the Bangalore Test was perhaps the first ever Test Match at the newly built Chinnaswamy stadium. We used to have something called the ' Indian News Reel,'  fuzzy Black and White documentaries of current events that would be shown at movie theaters, prior to the commencement of the main movie...
The Bangalore Test ( which we lost badly , I think), was made into such a documentary and I still remember the excitement with which we watched those grainy images at Picture Palace before the main movie began, which , in any case, we'd gone to watch only to see the cricket match... otherwise life was still mainly limited to listening to commentary on the Radio.. specially in the smalltowns....

And we really did have some great commentrators , specially on BBC's Test Match Special, who could paint such wonderful word pictures that it seemed  as if you were watching the action unfold right in front of your very eyes....

John Arlott, one of the legends on Test Match Special, once described the action thus  "... A sandy haired Englishman runs in to bowl to a crimson turbanned Sikh, while an Indian Prince prowls restlessly at the other end..." as he spoke about John Snow bowling to Bishen Bedi with Pataudi waiting at the non strikers end.
 The same Arlott,  handing over the mike for the last time after a commentating career spanning more than a hundred Test Matches, said unemotionally, as he had always done"...  And after expert comments by Trevor Bailey, it will be Christopher Martin Jenkins" and went off the air... forever. And for us, glued to transistors, it was as if an era had ended...

And now, 'the Indian Prince' is  gone too....one can only  wonder what he would have achieved, if had vision  in both eyes... and salute his determination and will power to overcome such a huge handicap....

 As I'd once written earlier.... They don't make them like that anymore..'




you can reach me at arijitghosh7@hotmail.com

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