In the late 1970s, soon after my
joining Balliol College at Oxford, I was at a
black-tie dinner sitting next to a distinguished
gentleman in his mid-sixties — Sir Edgar (Bill)
Williams, fellow of Balliol and Warden of Rhodes
House. He asked me whether I was interested in
cricket. On hearing that I was mad about the game,
he regaled me over dinner with stories of Mansur Ali
Khan Pataudi, a favourite of his, also a student of
Balliol, captain of Oxford and Sussex. I still
remember him saying, “Tiger was the best batsman
that I have seen play for Oxford.”
Tiger was my generation’s hero. Those who watched
cricket from the 1960s and up to the mid-1970s will
never forget a man who led his team on to the field
with a slight stoop, some ten feet ahead of the
rest, took his position at cover and, more often
than not, would be the only player taking four to
five steps forward, crouched and on his toes, as the
bowler came up to his delivery stride. In an era
where most Indian out-fielders believed that running
after a ball was a waste of time, and that hard hit
shots were best left alone or at most ineffectively
blocked by splayed feet, only Tiger Pataudi and Rusi
Surti fielded in the true sense of the word.
Here are three matches that I remember as if these
occurred yesterday — one in 1969-70 which we lost,
and two winning tests in Tiger’s last series against
the West Indies in 1975.
India versus Australia led by Bill Lawry, first
test, November 1969, at the Brabourne Stadium.
Pataudi won the toss and chose to bat. After
Sardesai, Engineer and Borde were dismissed by
McKenzie bowling at a blistering pace and India were
42 for 3, Pataudi and Ashok Mankad took control. The
next wicket fell at 188 when Mankad was bowled by
McKenzie — a fourth-wicket stand of 146 which was a
record against Australia. Pataudi hit 14 boundaries
and went on to score 95. Australia won the test by
eight wickets. But Tiger showed two things: first,
his ability to attack genuine fast bowling and play
his favourite lofted shots despite one eye; and
second, his unerring skill of using the spinners. In
Australia’s first innings, despite a century by
Keith Stackpole, 77 by Ian Redpath and 48 by Doug
Walters, Prasanna took five wickets; Bedi took
three; and Venkat two.
Tiger returned in 1975 to captain against Clive
Lloyd’s team. India had been mauled in the first two
tests — by Kallicharran, Greenidge and Lloyd in
Bangalore, and by Richards in Delhi. It was the
third test at the Eden Gardens. India started
disastrously with Naik caught Murray off Roberts in
the very first ball. Pataudi walked into a rising
delivery by Roberts that hit his chin. When he
returned after his stiches, he played like a man
possessed, smashing Roberts for four boundaries in
an over, and scoring a whirlwind 36. India was all
out for 233.
Despite an audacious 100 by Fredericks, West Indies
scored 240 in its first innings — just seven runs
more than India. Then Engineer counter-attacked with
61, followed by an innings of sheer beauty by
Viswanath, who scored 139 with 23 boundaries. India
closed at 313 with a lead of 306 runs. But West
Indies attacked and at the end of Day 4 were 146 for
3, with Kallicharran and Lloyd at the crease.
On Day 5, Lloyd began by punishing Chandra. But
Pataudi persisted. And Chandra delivered a ball that
curled around Lloyd’s leg to take his stumps off.
163 for 4. Shortly afterwards, Chandra got
Kallicharran. 178 for five. Soon it was 186 for six:
Julien lbw’ed by Chandra. Then Bedi arm-balled
Murray plumb in front of the stumps. 198 for seven.
Holder ran himself out. Bedi then took the last two
— Lance Gibbs and Andy Roberts. India won by 85 runs
on New Year’s Day 1975. Tiger’s spinner’s had
delivered for the Noob.
The fourth test at Chepauk in January 1975. India
batted first, scored 190 and played poorly, with the
exception of Viswanath who was stranded without
partners at 97. Roberts ripped the batting taking
seven for 64. But it was to be Prasanna’s, Bedi’s
and Chandra’s match. West Indies collapsed for 192,
with Prasanna taking five for 70, Bedi three for 40
and Chandra one for 33. India scored 256 in the
Needing to score 255 to win, this is what happened:
1-32 (Fredericks, Prasanna), 2-45 (Greenidge,
Chandra); 3-62 (Gibbs, night watchman, Chandra);
4-65 (Richards, Prasanna); 5-85 (Lloyd, Prasanna);
6-125 (Murray, Bedi); 7-133 (Kallicharran, run out);
8-138 (Boyce, Prasanna); 9-152 (Holder, Bedi); and
all out 154 (Roberts, Bedi). India won by 100 runs.
The spinners had delivered for Pataudi.
Tiger. Thank you. And rest well.
Published: Business World, October 2011