Calcutta: Till Zimbabwe’s Tatenda Taibu got the Test captaincy in the summer of 2004, Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi had been the youngest to lead a national team. That record has gone, but what will never be erased is the quality of his leadership. Pataudi may not have been India’s most successful captain, but is widely regarded as the greatest we’ve had.
Now 66, Pataudi spoke to The Telegraph from his New Delhi residence on Saturday afternoon.
The following are excerpts
On Rahul Dravid’s decision
Came as a bit of a surprise not a shock, for I’d been hearing he was disinclined to continue… Obviously, after the World Cup, there must have been some understanding between Dravid and the Board…
On whether Dravid talked about the captaincy when they met during the launch of the Indian Premier League and the Champions’ League in New Delhi on Thursday
On Dravid succumbing to pressure
Bottomline is that you’ve got to handle it… Pressure is always going to be there and the captain’s personality becomes a factor.
On whether the pressure faced by Indian captains is unique
Not on the field, but certainly off it, most of which is unwarranted… I mean, if the team doesn’t do well in a big tournament or series, then the families get threatened and mobs attack the players’ houses… I’m sure Dravid didn’t like that. Any principled man wouldn’t… Dravid is being pilloried for deserting the ship that’s Team India, but the ship isn’t sinking… The good thing is that the next two series’ are at home (ODIs against Australia, ODIs and Tests versus Pakistan). He hasn’t, at least, left on the eve of an overseas tour.
On Dravid as a person
His temperament is very different from, say, a Sourav Ganguly… Sourav is flamboyant, outgoing… Dravid, on the other hand, is an introvert and keeps things to himself…
On Dravid as captain
It’s a question of personality and while a Sourav would be enthusiastic and show his emotions — a display Indians like — Dravid went about his job quietly… He wasn’t just a competent captain, but a successful one too.
On Dravid being too defensive
(Laughs) I’m sure you want me to comment on Dravid not enforcing the follow-on (at the Brit Oval) last month… Yes, that was one instance when he played it very safe without good reason… Putting England under pressure by enforcing the follow-on was the only way we could have won that Test (and the series 2-0)… I would have done that… Simply making England follow-on at home and in conditions which suited them would have given me much pleasure… Dravid did make a few mistakes on that tour.
On the way forward for the Board
Purely as a holding operation, the selectors should appoint Sachin (Tendulkar) or Sourav and, then, give the job to (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni… I know Dhoni’s captaining in the Twenty20, but the format is such that a captain’s strategy-skills won’t really be tested… I’d be more interested in knowing how Dhoni handled the dressing room… I know Dhoni was vice-captain during the ODIs in England, but will need time to prepare himself mentally. I remember I got the captaincy out of the blue (in the West Indies, 1962)… I’d not been mentally prepared, for it was assumed Nari Contractor would remain captain for the next two-three years… Nobody could have anticipated he would get injured and that I would be elevated in rather sad circumstances… I’d just played three Tests before I got the captaincy… Today, the situation isn’t all that different as nobody expected Dravid not to continue… Dhoni, to my mind, needs at least one series to prepare... So, have Sachin or Sourav for now and Dhoni in the near future… I’m for one captain in both Tests and ODIs.
On whether he would go for Sachin or Sourav
It’s a difficult one… Sachin’s personality is such that he won’t impose himself on Dhoni, whereas Sourav could…
On the buzz that the powers-that-be have already approached Sachin
He must be willing to captain for a brief period. If there’s any hesitation, Sourav’s at hand.
On Sachin’s two innings as captain
What I remember is that he was unceremoniously removed the first time and couldn’t organise his batting the second time… That did surprise me, but he was a fine captain.
On Sourav’s five-plus years as captain
He did well and his record shows that… His is a different personality and his flamboyance was well received by teammates and the public. His passion wasn’t hidden.
Finally, his message for Dravid’s successor
Good luck! A captain needs luck… Had the weather not intervened at Lord’s (in the first Test of the recent series), then we would have lost and may not have won the series.