Bezwada Mahendra Kumar goes down memory lane
Former Andhra skipper and Hyderabad all rounder Bezwada Mahendra Kumar had a disturbed sleep on Thursday as the news about the demise of his friend, team mate and rival Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi made his heart heavy. Seventy-two year old Kumar not only played with Pataudi (1961-1966) but also against him when he shifted his allegiance to Andhra from 1966 to 1972.
“Pataudi was a great human being. He never showed any attitude as the icon of a royal family. He was aggressive and played the game with passion,” said Mr. Kumar to The Hindu in tete-a tete on Friday. “I met Pataudi in 1963-64 when I represented South Zone in the Duleep Trophy Tournament at New Delhi against North Zone”.
Reminiscing his playing days with him, Kumar said that Pataudi played in Vijayawada in November, 1970 for Hyderabad and scored a belligerent hundred with 16 fours against host Andhra .
“The match was played at IGMC stadium on a matting wicket. As the skipper of Andhra I was petrified as Pataudi was going hammer and tongs at the bowlers.
Pataudi went for a big one and was dropped by Andhra off-spinner Jayaram in the deep. Pataudi thought he was out and began walking towards the pavilion. I called him back and later he completed the century by executing a tennis shot of Nekkanti Venkat Rao,” recollected the ace leg spinner.
“I still recollect the scene when a buffalo entered the field and the Hyderabad fielders including Pataudi chased it out of the ground”, he remembered.
Kumar said the visiting team was supposed to stay at Hotel Manorama, best hotel in the city those days, but as the lift was out of order the Hyderabad team was shifted to Hotel Nataraj at Governorpet. “Patadui took a liking to my hair style and nicknamed me -– Zulfein (meaning hair in Urdu).
He also had the memories of the Guntur match in 1972 at B.R. Stadium in which Pataudi made 15 runs. “I remember a party was hosted for Hyderabad players at Universal Tobacco Company guest house by cricket administrator Harnath Baba. There I saw Sharmila Tagore, Pataudi's wife along with Abbas Ali Baig's wife,” said Mr. Kumar.
Fondly recollecting a match at Kothagudem, Kumar said that Pataudi arrived late for the match as he went hunting in the near by forest. “Music was another passion of Pataudi and he used to hum a popular Ghantasala song on Lord Balaji during the Kothagudem match”.
Former Andhra skipper K. Chandrasekhar Rao said Pataudi will always be remembered for his fielding. “He set a benchmark for the fielding especially at covers. He stood like a wall”.