He was stuff of cricket’s fairytale. The game’s original poster boy.
Tiger Pataudi, as a cricketer, remains a hazy memory. 1960s go too far back in history — close to half the country was not even born then. The stories of his greatness come in bits and pieces snatched from the conversation of elders steeped in nostalgia.
Captain courageous. Yes, he is the one who dared to dare, infused that ‘can do’ spirit in a team so used to being submissive and giving up. At 21, he was leading the national team, smashing the bowling around like no one did then and all this with only one functional eye. The other one he had lost a year earlier in an accident.
Brave-heart, one must add. His record as a player was not outstanding. But he was a brilliant captain. He captained Sussex and Oxford University too, ordering around the Brits in their own land.The elders were simply awe-struck.
And there was a hint of jealousy around. You could catch the heartburn if you wanted. He lived in style and went on to marry the hottest film star of the country then. You would be deaf to miss the sighs.
But that was Pataudi of the past. Impressive, yet a collage of fading memories.
The Pataudi we know of is a man past his cricketing days, old enough not to be poster boy, yet as impressive. Always the dignified man with an unmistakable aristocratic bearing, he looked to be a man glowing with inner confidence. In personal presence, he came in the same league as Imran Khan, Pakistan’s cricketing great.
He reminded us there’s something called aura. He made one nostalgic about pedigree. For who are not in the know, he was the ninth and last Nawab of Pataudi in Haryana until 1971. The Indian government abolished royal entitlements after that. His father, Iftikhar Ali Khan, represented both England and India in Tests.
He defined grace in his brief stint as commentator. He was a cut above the rest — articulate, incisive and observant, all without being garrulous. He was the part of the BCCI, cricket’s supreme governing body in the country, but never shy of criticising it. When he spoke it mattered.
“The ICC is the voice of cricket but BCCI is the invoice,” he said once. That old streak of aggressiveness, which is part of his cricketing legacy.
That he was surrounded by film stars — wife Sharmila, son Saif Ali Khan and daughter Soha — did not diminish his persona in any way. The Tiger burned bright. Age took none of the aura away.
Had he been born 30 years later, he would be a mega star. He was cut out for the age of advertising and big bucks. He had the style, the flair and the personality.
But knowing him, he would have stayed aloof — dignified and distant.
That is the Tiger Pataudi we would love to remember.