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.


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