| ‘Tiger Pataudi’s attitude to the game and his teammates remained always unflinchingly positive’ |
It was in the late sixties when G.R. Vishwanath, after making his debut for India, found some critical comments on his game made by a scribe. It was, as Vishwanath says, all in good taste and the scribe wrote honestly what he felt. Those were the days when players and journalists socialised after the day’s play nursing a drink in the bar. Skipper Pataudi got hold of him and said: “Listen, not one more word against Vishy! He is extremely talented and will do well. Just watch.”
“That was huge for me,” Vishy says, “to hear my captain support me and believe in my skills made a big difference to me and subsequently the journalist and I became great friends.”
Tiger Pataudi’s attitude to the game and his teammates remained always unflinchingly positive.
Maybe I am being randomly additive but this is what our great off-spinner of the famous Indian spin quartet has to say, “I remember when he came back in the 1974/75 home series against the West Indies, we lost the first two tests and then during the third game, in Calcutta, he came to my room one night and it was the rest day. In those days tests had rest days. It was 11.30 in the night and he told me, ‘Pras, I want you to hold one end up while the West Indies chase. Bowl a nagging spell. I will go all out with Chandra. As far as Bishan is concerned, I need not tell him anything, he is far too intelligent.’ Next day the plan worked. We attacked with Chandra and Bishan and I kept the pressure up. I went wicketless but India won the match and then he came to me and said, ‘Thank you, well bowled.’ It was more than enough for me. But when he went to Chennai, there was this ‘drop Prasanna’ campaign but he stood by me and told the selectors, ‘This will be Prasanna’s test.’ And I got nine wickets in that game! He was truly unique and I wish the Board of Control for Cricket in India had used his expertise more over the years.”
When such an attitude is punctuated by wit and candidness on and off the field, the result is Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi.
I had seen Pataudi bat and make 103 against New Zealand in the early sixties at Feroze Shah Kotla. It was in the same ground that I saw him play for south zone under M.L. Jaisimha. Jaisimha would lead the team on to the field and suddenly mutter “Pat” under his breath as he threw the ball back while still looking ahead. And a left arm would reach out and snap up the ball. That was Pataudi, sharp as ever, sharp of ear, arm, mind and soul.
I had also seen Bishan Singh Bedi guide the ball to the boundary while he created havoc with the ball. While captaining Oxford, Pataudi had also played county cricket, representing Sussex. When he skippered India he was not really familiar with the scene at home and did not know all the players, most whom were older than him. He resolved the situation by backing the younger lot and the grumpy seniors soon fell in line. He was in England studying at the same time as our present Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Pataudi was asked to comment on his contemporary becoming the Prime Minister.
He simply quipped, “The bugger did not even come down for a pint.” This is what Suresh Menon, who was familiar with Pataudi, writes, “Isn’t it a coincidence that after your first series, you did not really have to face an express fast bowler till your last?’ I asked, once provoking Tiger’s lopsided grin, the amused look and the casual response, ‘How do you think I lasted so long, bugger?’”
Mawaqif is Arabic (in the plural) for attitudes or points of view. It, incidentally, is the name of the journal Adonis, shortlisted for the literature Nobel this year, had founded after he had left his homeland Syria, where he was harassed and imprisoned for his political views. He moved to Beirut in Lebanon and became a Lebanese citizen in 1960. Adonis is now popularly considered the most influential poet and critic in the Arab world but he is no Arab essentialist. He advocates “a leap outside of established concepts, a change in the order of things and in the way we look at them.”
Adonis is prepared to make large claims for poetry and says: “I come from a land where poetry is like a tree which watches over man and where a poet is a guard who understands the rhythm of this world. He travels with history and feels the rhythm of history. By heeding his rhythm, he realises the gaps and distances that separate man from man. I see this separation between man as a darkness which science cannot dispel despite its transformative power. Only poetry can illuminate this darkness.
The Nobel in literature claimed by the Swede Tomas Transtromer this year, another poet who can make a symphony out of the greatest personal disasters. Nearly robbed of speech by paralysis, Transtromer continues to believe that out of the winter gloom, a tremolo rises from hidden instrument.
“My poems, he says, “are meeting places. Their intent is to make a sudden connection between aspects of reality that conventional languages and outlooks ordinarily kept apart. What looks at first like a confrontation turns out to be a connection.”
It is such a “connection” that I had chanced upon last evening at Nehu guesthouse on its Tura campus. While nursing a drink in my room, the handsome and gregarious Syrian young man, Hassan Hassan, said that he was from Kassavene, the same village that Adonis comes from.
Hassan, like Adonis, understands the rhythm of life and history. He keeps an open mind and believes in being himself. I had gathered quite a lot from him and his tall, ideally slim and entirely beautiful wife Rawnak, as we sat gossiping in my room. They are here on a research project and we met again at breakfast the next morning. I introduced them to Prof. B.N. Singh who is a formidable multitasker and teaches management and trains managers. He looks like Sanjeev Kumar and has the same genial manner. He trusts and subscribes to no pill and cures and is entirely without tension, and does not even have hypertension for all his 66 years and his hectic lifestyle. I had to excuse myself as I had to finish this write up. I had written a paragraph or two when they come in as gracefully as ever to tell me to knock on their door if I needed anything. Besides, Rawnak also took two of my mineral water bottles to chill in her fridge. And the greatest surprise was when Hassan comes in with a steaming cup of percolated Turkish coffee, “Toorkish”, as he says and offering it to me says, “Writers need strong coffee when they write and ponder.” That was huge for me. I have to say that surprises are always pleasant, otherwise they are shocks.