September 24, 2011


The Nawab of Pataudi (The Telegraph, 23 Sep 2011)

When Pataudi went in to bat, with a contact lens in his near-sightless right eye, he found he was seeing two balls, six or seven inches apart. By picking the inner one, he managed to reach 35. At this point he removed the contact lens, and, keeping the bad eye closed, succeeded in taking his score to 70.

A month later, in December 1961, he made his Test debut for India against England in Delhi. In his first four Test innings he registered scores of 13, 64, 32 and 103 (the latter in only 140 minutes), contributing largely to India's first victory in a series against England.

This was a truly heroic achievement. By the end of the season Pataudi reckoned that he had discovered the best means of overcoming his handicap, pulling the peak of his cap over his right eye to eliminate the blurred double image he otherwise saw.

He still had difficulty, though, in judging flight against slow bowlers. Inevitably, genius lost something to caution and orthodoxy.

Naturally, his record begs the question of what he might have achieved with two good eyes. Yet Pataudi never made excuses, or indulged in self pity. In his autobiography, Tiger's Tale (1969), he admitted simply that he had had to abandon his early ambition of becoming one of the greatest batsmen. Instead, he wrote: "I have concentrated on trying to make myself a useful one, and a better fielder than my father was."

The son of the 8th Nawab of Pataudi, he was born Mohamed Mansur Ali Khan on January 5 1941 at Bhopal, of which his maternal grandfather was Nawab. Pataudi, some 30 miles south-west of Delhi and about the size of Rutland, had been granted to a forebear who supported the British during the Indian Mutiny.

The boy grew up in a palace boasting 150 rooms, run by well over 100 servants -- eight of whom were employed as personal attendants to the son and heir, known from infancy as "Tiger". There was also a personal tutor, who ensured that he could speak English as well as Urdu.

His father ruled his tiny state as absolute monarch, albeit ultimately under British supervision. A talented cricketer in his own right, he had scored 238 not out for Oxford against Cambridge in 1931. Subsequently he played for England against Australia on the tour of 1932-33, making a century on his Test debut in Sydney. It was said, though, that he disapproved of Douglas Jardine's bodyline tactics.

Posted by at September 24, 2011 10:29 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus