In the latest part- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 6, our story moves on to Mansoor Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi (The 9th Nawab of Pataudi)
After the 1959 debacle, India set out to play in England in 1967 and were granted only a 3-test series. Another prince was appointed to lead India, but this time none of his cricketing credentials were questioned. He had actually lived a heroic life even till then and had come up on the top. Like his father, he went to England for his education, earned the coveted Oxford Blue, broke all the batting records there (Including Jardine’s record of most runs scored for the University in a season which had lasted for 50 years, – A sweet revenge on the man who cut his father’s England career short when papa Pataudi Sr. was probably in the form of his life), made a name for himself with extremely attractive batting, lost an eye, yet made a come-back, debuted in tests for India one eyed, scored a fifty and a hundred in the first series, and in the next series, when Nari Contractor was appointed as the Indian Captain after a near-fatal injury was inflicted on Contractor by Charlie Griffith. And the rest as they say, “is history.”
Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was only 26 in 1966-7 tour of England. There were all- rounders like Chandu Borde, and Rusi Surti, who had proven their mettle in the international arena, quality batsmen like Ajit Wadekar, Hanumant Singh (Who incidentally was a prince too- Of Banswara), Farrokh Engineer who was a great wicket-keeper too and three prodigal spinners in Bishan Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrashekhar and Erapalli Prasanna. The team was not a very strong one yet was not a bad team.
As in the first five tours, India lost the first test. But this six-wicket loss was not a display of ineptitude as were the first tests in the previous five tests. England piled up 550 in the first innings. Boycott scored an unbeaten 246 (& was dropped in the next test for selfish batting), Basil D’ Olivera scored a handsome 109, Barrington missed his hundred by 7 runs and Graveney scored 59. Indian bowling in this innings was dismal.
India replied with 164 in the first innings, Engineer making 42 and the captain 64, and were promptly asked to follow on. With 386 runs in arrears in their second essay, India lost make-shift opener Surti at the score of 5. Then the Bombay duo of Engineer and Wadekar put on 168 runs and India looked in a healthy position at 173 for 1. India then lost 3 quick wickets in the space of 53 runs and Hanumant Singh walked in to join his captain. The two put on 134 runs (which Steven Lynch certifies as the highest partnership in test cricket between 2 princes 😊). India avoided innings defeat and Tiger had made an assertive statement with his nonchalantly elegant batting. Here are a few glimpses of his innings.
Tiger rates this as the best innings of his life. England were set to get 125 to win and eventually got there losing four wickets.
The next test was at Lords, and the Indian agony at Lords continued. India made 152 in the first innings and Wadekar (57) was the only batsman to show some fight. England made 386, riding on a stylist 151 by a forty-year old Tom Graveney and 97 by Ken Barrington. Indian wickets in the second innings too fell in a heap, and India lost by an Innings. Tiger scored a brace of 5s in the match. Budhi Kunderan made 47 in the second innings. The series was lost.
England were relentless though. The third test was a dead rubber and England were tested, They made 298 in their first innings. John Murray made 77. India played four spinners and all of them shared wickets pretty much evenly. India replied with a Sorry 92, none of the batsmen making any contribution. England made 203 in the second innings and India were again set a huge target of 410 to win. They could make 277. Wadekar made 70 and Pataudi 47. India were whitewashed 3-0 in the series.
Yet, it was Tiger Pataudi who instilled self-belief in the Indian Cricketers. Instead of cribbing about India’s depleting fast bowling resources, he focussed on spin, and it was during his tenure that the great Indian Spinning Quartet became India’s most potent bowling force. He also made sure that his players rise beyond their regionalities and differences when they represented the nation.
Bishan Bedi once said, “He was our first captain who introduced a sense of Indianness in the dressing room. He’d say: ‘Look, we’re Indians first. We’re not playing for Karnataka or Delhi or Mumbai or Madras. We’re playing for India'”
And he was also the one with his feet always on the ground. He wore his royalty, fame and when he was stripped of these, he never cribbed. On the contrary, he was more comfortable without these. As a player, he was never shy of aggression and with his dry and occasionally wicked wit, Tiger Pataudi was one of the best conversationalists, in spite of being a man of few words.
Limelight was not new to him. His dad was a prince and a famous international cricketer, he married one of the most sought-after actresses of Bollywood, his son, daughters and daughter in law have been successful actors, and yet he maintained the dignity in his public life with a calm aloofness and a dry and honest wit. Tiger Pataudi was the first Indian Cricketer to overthrow the awe of the British from the minds of Indian cricketers.To conclude, I share this anecdote of his which pretty much sums up the kind of person he was.
Tiger had scored his maiden century against England in the 1961-2 series. He was keenly followed by the English right from his schooldays and they were pretty sad when he had lost his eye. The British press was wonderstruck with his comeback in tests, and he was asked, “When did you feel that you can make a comeback and play international cricket?”
“When I saw the English Bowling.” Pat came the reply.
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