Tiger Pataudi was a fair sporting icon and a positive captain of our generation

Tiger Pataudi is no more. Long live Tiger Pataudi.

I'm using the Royal British epitaph for a Royal Prince of Indian Cricket who learnt all his cricket in England, far away from the scene of Indian cricket — all wrapped up in political strife and parochial squabbles. Perhaps that in itself became Tiger's biggest plus point.

He didn't have to look through a regional prism.

To my mind, Tiger Pataudi was the best thing that happened to Indian cricket from the time India got Test status. He was the first Indian captain to drill ‘Indian-ness' into the Indian dressing room.

“We are not playing for Bombay, Delhi, Madras or Mysore…we are playing for India …we are playing for India. For goodness sake think India.”

These words are still very fresh in my memory from my initial team meetings with Tiger at the helm. I haven't seen a more fair sporting icon who wore nationalism on his person without ever making a show of it.

We were distinctly deprived of a hundred per cent fit Tiger as a car accident in England had damaged his right eye permanently.

And yet he overcame a massive personal handicap to play a brave and courageous role as the most positive leader of our generation.

Moulding spin quartet

Nawab Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi was the best captain the spin quartet played under. He got the best out of all of us at various stages of our respective careers. Whatever little else was to be done was achieved by Ajit Wadekar.

Tiger's legacy cannot be described in words or stats for that matter. Only those who played with Tiger over a period of time would be able to explain his sincerity and selfless devotion to Indian cricket.

He was a Nawab, yet humble to the core. I've never heard him raving about his own cricketing feats. Never ever.

Tiger was the most large-hearted batsman I've known, willing to take risks, not always necessarily very calculated, but most certainly to go for positive results.

Going for a draw was alien to his mental make up and made his team-mates think likewise. Tiger Pataudi's qualities as a leader were manifold — leading from the front came ever so naturally — I used to envy his superb athletic ability. Apparently, that's how he came to be called ‘Tiger' — prowling in the covers to pounce on the ball like the majestic predator. In one of our camps at the NDA, Khadakwasla, Tiger clocked 10.60 in the 100m dash.

Feline grace

Without any preparation or work-out in those days, Tiger's swiftness in the covers and mid-wicket regions was phenomenal.

For someone who was fairly lousy in the field, I could appreciate Tiger's superb skill in speed and accuracy in the outfield.

There were better all-round fielders perhaps in Kapil Dev and Azharuddin or better close-in catchers in Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar but for my humble pocket give me Tiger Pataudi in the covers and I'll take on any batsman in the world.

If you scored a hundred or picked up five wickets, a simple nod from Capt. Pataudi was good enough to spur you on to greater achievements.

Tiger's love for music and a great sense of humour were as captivating as the legend himself. I'd like to think I have lost a very close cricket friend, whose 70th birthday we celebrated at the behest of his charming spouse, Sharmila.

Tiger never indulged in any celebrations on his birthday as it was on the same day he had lost his father. Who knew that it would be his last birthday!

Tiger was in the hospital for a while and I was trying to keep a tab on his health via his good wife. Sadly, all those contacts have come to a close. Death has no significance for a Nawab or a commoner, for a cricketing legend or any other artist.

At this particular moment my heart reaches out to Sharmila and Saif, Saba and Soha. Tiger was such a lovely family man. RIP Nawab Sahib.

(Former India captain and ace left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi was a contemporary of Tiger Pataudi and made his Test debut under his captaincy)

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