Being within handshaking distance of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was enough to make lesser mortals feel blessed. Being introduced to the Nawab was indeed the realisation of a dream.
Having watched the great man bring some stars of Indian cricket, including a young sensation Sunil Gavaskar and his inspiration M.L. Jaisimha besides Abbas Ali Baig, for an annual tournament at Bhopal's Tatya Tope Stadium some 40 years ago, the prospect of meeting one's childhood hero was overwhelmingly exciting.
An opportunity to watch Pataudi more closely and discover a bit more came calling when he agreed to be part of an exclusive group that travelled to Interlaken, Switzerland, in August 2009.
In a rare gesture, Pataudi and his former colleague Farokh Engineer agreed to be the umpires for a six-a-side five-over-each side ‘Cricket on Snow' match.
Kapil Dev, Sandeep Patil, Aunshuman Gaekwad, Roger Binny, Syed Kirmani and Ajay Jadeja formed the Indian team that took on a side led by Alvin Kallicharan and some U.K.-based cricketers, including Collis King, John Emburey and Chris Broad.
It was meant to be a fun-filled event to be hosted on the Independence Day at Jungfraujoch — Top of Europe — a whopping 11,333 feet above sea level. It did not take Pataudi too long to get into the right spirit.
On landing at Zurich, it was great to see a well-rested Pataudi pushing the baggage trolley that boasted of a special luggage, a laughing Sharmila.
An alert Kapil Dev requested a playful Pataudi ‘Sir' to pause and quickly captured the moment on camera. In the days that followed, one's admiration for the great man grew into reverence.
Expectedly, Pataudi conducted himself with dignity and in style. Players like Gaekwad and Patil addressed him as ‘Sir'.
Players and their wives queued up to be photographed with Pataudi. A picture with the royal couple was an added bonus. There was never a doubt that Pataudi was the celebrity of celebrities on board.
The following day, Pataudi struggled on snow to reach the customised wooden pitch covered with a green synthetic mat. But Sharmila lent support and the couple made it with a smile. Sharmila tossed the coin before Pataudi took his place as one of the umpires.
The players knew when to let the Tiger return to his privacy. He readily obliged the photographers but also firmly let them know when he thought was enough.
On Thursday, the ‘Tiger' chose to rest forever, knowing he had had enough.