Chennai: Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi is no more, but the accolades just don’t stop. The latest, from Sunil Gavaskar, came on Wednesday evening.
“Tiger liberated Indian cricket, changed our mindset with his captaincy and batting... Till then, it was for status quo, instead of making things happen...
“He was also a great fielder, among the top-three for India, with Eknath Solkar and Mohammed Azharuddin,” Gavaskar said, while delivering the inaugural M.A.K. Pataudi Memorial Lecture, instituted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
It was an occasion for Gavaskar to confess that, for many years, he didn’t quite know how to address India’s most charismatic captain. He had plenty of options though: “Nawabsaab, captain, skipper, Pat, Tiger.”
The select audience, at the Taj Coromandel, included the Indian and Australian teams, Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards and the International Cricket Council’s chief executive, David Richardson.
Besides, there were former India players: Chandu Borde, Ajit Wadekar, Bishan Singh Bedi, Ravi Shastri, Krishnamachari Srikkanth; Salim Durrani, A.G. Milkha Singh, Farokh Engineer, Erapalli Prasanna, Brijesh Patel, Karsan Ghavri and T.A. Sekar.
Sharmila Tagore was to have come from New Delhi, but food poisoning landed her in hospital instead. The family went unrepresented, but not because of Pataudi having taken the BCCI to court.
“Please let the people know that an illness has kept me away and there should be no misunderstanding,” Sharmila told The Telegraph.
When that was conveyed to the BCCI president, Narayanswamy Srinivasan, he promptly responded: “I’m aware of Sharmila’s problem... There’s no misunderstanding... This is for a great cricketer.”
Gavaskar, who spoke extempore and eloquently, added: “Tiger gave the team self-belief and confidence... That we could win... He had a magnetic presence... Even after the eye injury, he scored around 3,000 Test runs... He belonged to the glamour decade, the Sixties...
“Tiger brought the fun aspect to the game and was a prankster, something you wouldn’t associate with one having royal lineage.”
Towards the end of his nearly 25-minute Lecture (“Tiger was a man of few words and it’s the T20 era...”) Gavaskar maintained that the game shouldn’t be “tinkered” with too much.
Tiger felt the same way.
Gavaskar also called for pitches which would “test the best against the best.” He concluded by wishing the Indians “a little more luck,” ahead of the series, as they hadn’t been winning in Test cricket.
Footnote: Bedi, speaking exclusively, pointed out that Pataudi “stood for everything that cricket stands for.”