31March

The original "Tiger"

Among the rare compliments that come one's way either at the workplace or the playground is 'Tiger". Those who have had the privilege of being called so surely know the "high" that it brings on. It is a combination of guts, initiative, self belief and flawless execution ability.  Add to that a dash of the feline grace that comes with the territory. The late Nawab (Mansur Ali Khan) of Pataudi personified all these fine attributes and several other virtues that made him a cult figure for teenagers in the 60s when India was licking its wounds of the Chinese aggression and sulking from the stalemate of the frontal conflict with Pakistan.

Among the rare compliments that come one's way either at the workplace or the playground is 'Tiger". Those who have had the privilege of being called so surely know the "high" that it brings on. It is a combination of guts, initiative, self belief and flawless execution ability.  Add to that a dash of the feline grace that comes with the territory. The late Nawab (Mansur Ali Khan) of Pataudi personified all these fine attributes and several other virtues that made him a cult figure for teenagers in the 60s when India was licking its wounds of the Chinese aggression and sulking from the stalemate of the frontal conflict with Pakistan.

Tiger could not only hold his own against lethal pace attacks but also wax eloquent amidst an Anglophile audience that dominated cricket. He also displayed the single minded application that tigers do to pursue Sharmila Tagore for three eventful years till she gave in to his abundant charms. Many of us wondered why it took Sharmila so long to walk down the aisle as her other romantic options were nowhere in the same zone as Pataudi. Insiders aver that the religious divergence may have been a temporary show stopper for the 'Kashmir Ki Kali". But Pataudi transcended all such divisions by dint of his inclusive leadership of the Indian team. He was the first Indian cricketer to challenge the predominance of Bombay and strung together a string of pearls from every corner of India - Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna, Venkat & Vishwanath to name a few.

I have followed Pataudi like a hawk over the years and have never heard him speak of his faith. Not once have I seen him photographed at a mosque. Even his aborted foray into politics was not bed rocked on communal lines. He chose the Jat heart land of Gurgaon (proximate to his native village of Pataudi) as his constituency when he could have easily settled for a minority dominated city like Bhopal where he had roots too. A later day captain abandoned his hometown to render himself more "winnable" from a safer seat in Uttar Pradesh.

Every move of Tiger's was a throw of the gauntlet - whether it was to introduce his  indolent team mates to the painful discipline of fielding (the reported excuse those days was that the BCCI did not pay for laundry expenses which ruled out any aerobatics on the field!), scoring a century against the awesome Aussies virtually on one leg in Adelaide, gracefully stepping aside from the England bound team after being wrested of the captaincy by the 'Bombay lobby" in 1971, never pitching himself for a BCCI office bearers' role unless it came to him at his terms and speaking his mind in an unambiguous manner whenever asked for sound bytes.

Rajesh Khanna, whose stardom coincided with Tiger's may have been the hero of the masses but the classes were truly inspired by the distinguished Nawab who never ceased being a gentleman even in the fiercest of battles.

They dont make guys like Tiger Pataudi anymore.

Posted in Leadership

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