Book Review: Non-fiction/ Pataudi: Nawab of Cricket by Suresh Menon (edited), Harper Sport, 186p; Rs499 (Hardback)
Nawab by pedigree and a cricketer by natural talent, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi had ceased the entire decade of 1960’s with his unwavering charm and charisma. On and off the field, he remained a sensation and icon of change in Indian cricket.
His greatness as a sportsperson is much above the statistical record he left for the game of cricket- he brought winning belief in Indian cricket team. While earlier, Indians were playing international cricket to keep the outcome of game, either at ‘draw’ or for losing it. Things changed with the arrival of Pataudi as a Captain-the best happened. He led country to forty matches out of forty-six test matches he played.
Notwithstanding his erstwhile royal connection, he was ‘a regular boy’. Farokh Engineer, a contemporary legend and one of the closest team-mates of Pataudi noted it first. He remained afraid of flight, and was kin to travel in train for the longest journey possible. For compelling international trips, a big round of counseling was a prerequisite. And on car, his place was besides the chauffer.
This all started with a freak road accident in England. He lost one of his eyes. He was only a few matches old. Irrespective of the handicap, he played the greatest quick bowlers of his time and never fell short on his aggressive act of batting or in the field. Though well accustomed in the environment of Oxford, he had an option to play for England, but at core, he was an Indian.
Suresh Menon, a seasoned journalist and one among the prominent voices on cricket has edited a collectionable volume to understand the persona and cricket life of Pataudi. The twenty-three essays give proper diversity to understand the contribution of Pataudi to Indian cricket.
However few of them are amazingly rich in their perspective. The essays of Farokh Engineer, Abbas Ali Baig, Naseeruddin Shah, N Ram, Vijay Merchant, Mudar Pathreya, M J Akbar and Suresh Menon’s are the gems of this anthology, and all add elegance.
While all other essays talk of Pataudi’s mark in cricket or personal life, Mudar Pathreya and M.J.Akbar recalls Pataudi, for his less known role as Editor of ABP’s Sportsworld.Against the perception, he was at ease with new ideas and people. He always had concern for people around him, accounts of Akbar and Pathreya confirms it.
This book has some rare photographs of cricketing greats and its cover page reminded me of my forgotten pastime. I stopped watching cricket, since IPL came in vogue.
Personally, I see this version (IPL) ‘deep down in sin’ and doing immeasurable harm to the real spirit of cricket. BCCI has virtually legalized gambling through IPL and has set itself as the last resort of ‘crony capitalists’. When the non-cricketing attributes are ruling the game in India, the lover of cricket has no option left except to get in close terms with ‘anecdotes’.
The generation who grew up in this decade, will probably never know the beauty of cricket. They will know cricket for ‘filthy reaches’ and cricketers for ‘fixing the game in over-colorful dresses’.
TV and newspapers will keep coveraging it and will inflict disastrous blows to the game of Cricket. India will not take long to forget the glorious past of Indian cricket team.
This book, offers a great deal about an epoch making cricketer and his cult personality. Posthumously, the fan of Nawab Pataudi will have no other better source than this book, to recall his passion for game, which he loved most.
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in Rising Kashmir on May26,2013)