Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, the dashing aristocrat, was also the man who changed the face of Indian cricket. From his romance with Sharmila Tagore to the triumphs and tragedies of his life in cricket and beyond, Rajdeep Sardesai, one of TV’s best-known faces, has written The Nawab of the Republic, a brilliant mini-biography of Tiger Pataudi. Read an excerpt below:
Cricket was an intrinsic part of Pataudi’s growing-up years. Indian princes had a rather chequered relationship with the sport. The Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, was the original patron of cricket in the country and was even chosen (some would say ‘imposed’) as captain of the Indian team on its first test tour to England in 1932 before dropping out at the last moment on health grounds. More controversial was the Maharaja of Vizianagram, or ‘Vizzy’, who was named captain of the Indian cricket team for the 1936 tour of England despite limited cricket abilities, amidst allegations that he had ‘bought’ his way to captaincy. That was the tour which was to witness the first big conflict in Indian cricket, with the team’s star player Lala Amarnath being sent home by Vizzy on ‘disciplinary’ grounds.
The House of Pataudi though could claim a more distinguished cricket lineage; the only other princely family with similar pedigree was the Nawanagar family of Saurashtra, which had produced the first two cricketing wizards from the East, Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji. Like Ranji and Duleep, Iftikhar Pataudi played for England, and was good enough to score a century on debut for England in 1932, and then captain India in 1946, the first and only cricketer to play for both countries. He was not just a fine cricketer but also a man of principles. Refusing to concur with the ‘Bodyline’ tactics of the English captain Douglas Jardine on the 1932-33 tour of Australia, he was dropped from the team. He would later remark caustically, ‘I am told Jardine has good points. In the three months on tour, I am yet to see them.’
Iftikhar had limited influence, though, on his son’s cricket. ‘I never really remember watching him bat but he was probably more technically correct than I was,’ Tiger Pataudi would later tell me. He did, however, recall one incident that had stuck in his mind. ‘I was eight or nine years old and fielding in a match at cover with my father at extra cover. The ball was skied in my direction and I was getting ready to take a catch. Suddenly I saw two large hands pop up over my head. My father took the catch and turned to me, and simply said, “Sorry my son, I can’t trust you at your age!”’