Yesterday was undoubtedly a very sad day in Indian cricket. The day marked the departure of one of the most colourful cricketers in Indian sporting history - the Nawab of Pataudi, or fondly called as the Tiger.
I never saw Tiger play, but I have heard about his game from my dad, who has seen him play live at Chennai in test matches (in uncovered pitches!). Of course, the media has gone on & on about his legacy and his contribution to the game, which means, I have learnt that much more about the great man.
I remember seeing an interview of the Tiger with the effervescent Harsha Bhogle in his iconic show, Harsha Online a few years back. Though the Tiger was well past his playing days, he was extremely articulate about the current state of the game, and had his firm opinions on how the BCCI functions, on how the game needs to be revamped at the grassroot level et al. And for as seasoned a cricket commentator as Harsha, even he couldn't stop himself from telling the Nawab that he was a huge fan of the Tiger & was actually a bit scared to do the interview. In his inimitable style, the Tiger responded with his dry humour, 'see me more often; familiarity does, whatever...'.
Thanks to you, Tiger, India found its way in the international arena as one unit. Whenever I see a journalist or a past cricketer say that it was Pataudi who united the Indian cricket team i.e. made the 11 players believe that they were playing for India and not for Karnataka or Bombay or Calcutta or Punjab etc, it just reminded me of the movie, Chak De. That's exactly what Shahrukh Khan did in that movie i.e. assemble a bunch of of rookies who were thoroughly at loggerheads with each other, and got them to play as team, represent the country as one unit and go on to win the hockey world cup! Tiger - I wonder, if you were the inspiration for that award-winning script!
Of course, what we will remember the Tiger best for, will be his incredible credential of having been in the first Indian captain to have led an Indian win overseas in 1967. In that era of non-believers (in Abid Ali's words) i.e. Indian cricket teams never ever believed that they could win abroad, it takes something to not only unite a bunch of disconnected players into 1 team, and to lead them to victory overseas. Hats off, Nawab!
I learnt class, poise, immense style and panache, not to mention thorough courage of conviction from whatever I saw of the Tiger on television. The biggest takeaway that he gave me was, be hard on the field, but be a better person outside of it and of course, enjoy the very good things in life.
Thanks, Tiger. I will miss your incredible class (even if only on TV).