From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.40 :: Oct. 06, 2011

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CRICKET / DOWN MEMORY LANE

A class apart

“Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi did not believe in trial and error methods. He was precise. He was a brilliant captain,” says Anshuman Gaekwad, the former India batsman, national selector and coach, as he pays tribute to his idol. By G. Viswanath.

THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Joy of winning... The Indian players (from left), Bishan Singh Bedi, skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, B. S. Chandrasekhar, Anshuman Gaekwad and G. R. Viswanath, dash off to the dressing room at the end of the Calcutta Test against the West Indies in 1974-75 which the host won.

Anshuman Gaekwad and Karsan Ghavri were the last two cricketers to make their Test debut under Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. This happened at the Eden Gardens, in the third Test of the 1974-75 series against the West Indies, led by Clive Lloyd.

At the end of the series — which India lost 2-3 — Pataudi invited Gaekwad to his home in Bombay for a party. Then, out of curiosity Gaekwad asked Pataudi why he was not ready to share his experience with the youngsters in the team. Gaekwad, who batted in the middle-order and scored 51 and 42 at the Wankhede Stadium, was stung by Pataudi's response: “When you are playing international cricket, as a batsman you should know to score runs and as a bowler you should know to take wickets. It's not my job to teach you these things.”

Gaekwad said, “He (Pataudi) was curt and blunt. I was initially shocked, but I realised how true he was. There are so many things one can talk about him. We enjoyed a good rapport and became close acquaintances over a period of time, which is what I was hoping for after I saw him for the first time in 1966 at the Cricket Club of India (CCI). Last January he asked me what dress he should wear for my second son's wedding and also told me to keep a bottle of brandy ready. Pataudi, Vishy (G. R. Viswanath) and I had a great time at a resort where the wedding took place.”

As a budding cricketer Gaekwad idolised Pataudi. Taken up by his charisma and appeal, the Baroda cricketer not only wanted to play under his hero, but also get close to him. He realised both his ambitions.

As a 14-year-old, Gaekwad, along with his father and former India captain Dattajirao, travelled to Bombay in 1966 and saw Pataudi in action from the North Stand of the Brabourne Stadium. “At the CCI reception area, where young cricketers of my age were not allowed, I managed to slip in and saw Pataudi and Farokh (Engineer) get into the lift. I can say that none of the cricketers of today have the same charisma that he had.”

Gaekwad finally got the chance to meet Pataudi in a benefit match for Mama Karmarkar (Assistant Secretary, BCCI, 1949-1980) at the Nehru Stadium in Pune in 1974. “It was a one-day match and I was in the team captained by Tiger. I was so impressed with the way he dealt with Gopal Bose's off breaks — not the conventional ones, but those that turned the other way. ‘Just touch it and run' he said after seeing me struggle to pick Bose correctly. I was playing and missing, but managed to get an outer edge and ran towards the non-striker's end. Soon Tiger showed why he was a class apart. He hit Bose for a six over the bowler, a second six over mid-off and punched a four off the third ball.”

In a year's time Gaekwad scored a century for Combined Universities against West Indies in a tour match and was chosen for the Indian team. He did not play the first two Tests against West Indies, in Bangalore and Delhi.

“At the Eden Gardens, on the last day, I was witness to a piece of captaincy by Pataudi. He took a break for an over, went to the dressing room and after he returned, he brought Chandra back into the attack. We thought it was a strange move because Chandra had been punished by Kallicharran. But it paid off as Chandra dismissed Kallicharran and India won. Out of sheer curiosity I asked the masseur in the dressing room what the captain did during the one-over break. He said, ‘Kuch nahi, ek cigarette khaya aur chala gaya'.”

Pataudi, according to Gaekwad, was the best and positive captain he had played under. “He did not believe in trial and error methods. He was precise. He was a brilliant captain. He carried only a pair of leg guards, thigh pads and a cap for a match; he used the bat of other players. Pataudi was an amazing person; he used to mind his own business and did not harm others at all,” said Gaekwad.



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