“I really respected him” – This remark may neither raise eyebrows nor would it register very strongly on anyone’s mind. But if you know that it was Sachin Tendulkar making such a remark, you would stick to the word ‘really’ and start admiring the person, whoever the great batsman is referring to.
Tendulkar was referring to Former Indian captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, who passed away on 22nd of September 2011. It would be interesting to know that Tendulkar was barely a 2-year old when Pataudi played his last International match. It needs sheer genius in a person to earn respect, in the heart of a cricketer who started playing serious cricket, a decade after he had retired.
Most of us, who have grown in the constant shower of cricket, just because we are close to India, have heard of him. Hardly a few have seen him play. Yet we know of him. Probably, among the cricketers who played before the television era, he was the only icon that we knew, with the exception of Sir Don Bradman and Great Garry Sobers. Not many can boast to have such a long shelf-life after retiring, something most sportsmen would envy.
Having seen him only in interviews, except some grainy black and white television footages, yours truly learnt that cricket is just an extension of this princely being. The aura of the Republican Prince – as termed by a cricket writer – was overwhelming. A desire to interview the person behind Ray Ban glasses grew. It’s perhaps not worth mentioning that yours truly could only get to as far as meeting Sharmila Tagore, his wife for 4 decades.
As I asked her, how it felt to have been married to a Rockstar cricketer, she would reply, “I married a human being. His cricket never interfered our lives.” A line with a smile, which used to floor millions during her film days, now with added affection… A lesson you learn, in life – Keep things simple.
We’ve seen a lot of cricketers who could not carry the weight of their lineage. Ask, Rohan Gavaskar (son of Sunil Gavaskar) and Liam Botham (son of Ian Botham), how difficult it could be. Mansoor Ali Khan had a proud lineage to live up to, cricket historians and writers still write about Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi’s leg glance and his famous opposition to Douglas Jardine’s Bodyline tactics.
Yet he became the youngest Test captain of the world – the record remained till Tatenda Taibu became Zimbabwe’s captain in 2004 – and made India a team that could win matches abroad (India won its first abroad series under him). He is the one credited with giving Indian cricket a new and proud face, 4 decades before Sourav Ganguly patented the style towards turn of the century. Khan would be remembered for developing Indian spin quartet as a force, akin to what the West Indians developed in form of the pace quartet, albeit much later. All this happened, after he had already lost vision in one of his eyes. Interesting to learn that he donated another one, a week before he died…
One reason why the great Imran Khan said, “… he was a genius of great proportions.”
While the cricket world pays farewell to Pataudi, we wait for our next coach, Former Sri Lankan Cricketer Pubudu Dassanayake, who’s due to arrive coming week. He has already said that he would want to take Nepal to higher rank and possibly into the World Cup. We would love to see that. He has already proved his mettle, taking Canadian team into the World Cup.
One thing Dassanayake would do well to remember is that his compatriot, Roy Dias has already done the groundwork. He would rather not reinvent the wheel and try to add on to the achievements we’ve already had. Much will also depend on how ‘localized’ he gets and tries to earn the respect of the players, who sometimes get complacent and carried away.
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 24th September, 2011)