Sharmila Tagore and Sourav Ganguly at the launch of Pataudi: Nawab of Cricket, a biographical anthology on Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, on Saturday afternoon
They craned their necks from the back, squeezed themselves into all sorts of shapes in the aisles and jostled for a toehold on the sides of the Google Dome, all for a glimpse of one man — Sourav Ganguly.
The 4.30pm session on Saturday at the Kolkata Literary Meet, being held at the Book Fair in association with The Telegraph, may have been about the Nawab of cricket, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, and attended by his Begum, Sharmila Tagore, but there was no doubt who the showstopper was — the “Maharaj” of Indian cricket.
The session saw the launch of Pataudi: Nawab of Cricket, a biographical anthology on Pataudi edited by Suresh Menon, and a discussion on the paucity of cricket memoirs in India.
Menon spoke about the “self-respect movement” that Pataudi pioneered in Indian cricket, giving his boys the confidence that they were no less than the English or Australian teams, which was carried forward by Sourav, who nurtured talent from small-town India.
Sharmila filled in with delightful anecdotes, be it Pataudi running away to meet her in Paris, or Tiger convincing Farokh Engineer that Victoria Memorial belonged to his family!
The Behala boy pitched in with his quiet humour. “You must be a kind woman. Being a film star, coming from a very well-known family… Tiger, Saif, Kareena, two daughters and you are still by far the most good-looking of them all! You must have been a very kind woman to tolerate a kick from your (to-be) husband!” he told Sharmila when she revealed how she had been “kicked under the table” by Pataudi for calling a late cut a leg cut!
“I wasn’t allowed to talk cricket! It was in my marriage contract!” she laughed.
The packed auditorium got a peek into Pataudi the man and how he dealt with his eye injury when Sourav asked Sharmila, “Did you ever ask him what it felt like playing with one eye without a helmet against the best fast-bowlers in the world?”
“He never liked talking about his accident. It meant so much to him. He used to pick the ball from the movement of the bowler’s arm. He used to pull a cap over his eye,” she recalled. What made Pataudi “Tiger” was a “courage-under-fire quality”.
Much like the Bengal southpaw, hailed for his memorable comeback under pressure in 2006.
“I remember entire Bengal was behind Sourav. Soumitra (Chatterjee) told me, ‘After all he is an icon!’ smiled Sharmila. “Yes, Sourav, yes Dada!” the audience cheered.
The audience, of course, was straining to ask their Dada many questions, ranging from his IPL plans after Pune Warriors to whether his daughter Sana would play women’s cricket.
The full-toss? “Dada, why don’t you become the brand ambassador for Bengal sports?”
The six over long on? “Well, you’ll have to ask Didi about that.”
Laughter, cheer, claps and hoots.