Every youngster in the 1960s tried to copy Tiger Pataudi: Sunil Gavaskar

“R.I.P. Skipper, Captain, Nawabsaab, Pat, Tiger. There will never be another like you,” Sunil Gavaskar said Getty Images

Mumbai: Sep 24, 2011

Almost every budding cricketer in the 60s would try and copy late former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s walking style and aspired to have a stance like him, recalls ex-skipper Sunil Gavaskar.

“I don’t think there was a single budding teenage cricketer in the country who did not try to walk like him or have a stance like him,” Gavaskar said while paying tribute to Pataudi, who passed away on Thursday after battling lung infection.

“The open stance was unique since he had lost one eye and so opened his stance to get a better look at the bowler with his one good eye. We all tried to copy that but kept getting out bowled or leg before playing across the line,” Gavaskar, who first saw Pataudi before the Indian team’s departure for a tour to West Indies in 1961, added.

Apart from his batting, Pataudi was well known for his fielding prowess, something the others could never dreamt of matching in those days.

“We couldn’t copy his fielding since in that era he was pretty much a one-off who could slide and save the ball going past him. In fact his fielding was equally thrilling as his batting.

“What was remarkable was how he could bat with just one eye and how he could catch so well in the covers or in the slips. Just imagine if he had two eyes,” he said.

Pataudi had lost his right eye following a car accident in England in 1961.

Taking a walk down memory lane, Gavaskar remembered how he was informed about being appointed vice-captain before a series against the West Indies in 1974.

“He was the one who proposed that I should be his vice-captain for the 1974/75 series against the West Indies and, on the eve of the first Test, he along with Raj Singh (Dungarpur) came to inform me of that but, true to Indian cricket’s ways, I was asked to keep quiet about it.

“That’s why when he got injured taking a steepler of a catch and had to leave the field there was confusion for an over till confirmation came in from the selectors that I was to lead the team.

“He retired after that series and kept his distance from the game and it was Indian cricket’s loss that he wasn’t brought in to give his vast experience and expertise,” Gavaskar said.

Talking about Pataudi’s sense of humour, Gavaskar described it as dry.

“His sense of humour was the dry kind with one liners. Asked by an Englishman, when he thought he could play at the highest level again after the accident that cost him his eye he replied ‘When I saw the English bowling’,” Gavaskar recollected.

Pataudi’s fear of flying is well documented. “We were once flying back from Kenya and having made a refueling stop in Karachi, we encountered some incredibly turbulent weather where the aircraft was like a wild horse bucking up and down.

“I was nervous too and especially once it dawned on me that it was past midnight and we had entered a new day.”

“To get over my nervousness, I tried to make him even paler than he was already. I asked casually ‘Didn’t your father pass away on your birthday? You know what, it is past midnight so it is Saif’s birthday now and maybe history will repeat itself’. The look I got was worth preserving.”

While saying that Pataudi will be missed for he brought class and panache to anything he did, Gavaskar revealed that he still doesn’t know how to address the late Nawab.

“”What should we address you as?”” this was the question posed by me to the Nawab of Pataudi in 1966 when we were playing for the Vazir Sultan Colts team in the Moin-Ud Dowlah Gold Cup.

“There was a mystique about him and nobody apart from his family could perhaps say that they really knew him.

“R.I.P. Skipper, Captain, Nawabsaab, Pat, Tiger. There will never be another like you.” (PTI)