Saturday, September 24, 2011

M.A.K. Pataudi - An Indubitable Genius

I lost a contact lens, while walking home today. I am short sighted on both my eyes and with my right eye partly – only partly – blinded, I was utterly disoriented. I trudged on with as much care as I could muster, stopping at a traffic signal to check my twitter feed. Tributes were pouring in for Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi – ‘Tiger’ Pataudi – who had sadly died, in Delhi, with a lung infection. Here I was, struggling to orient myself with the loss of my right contact lens, while this man had made test match hundreds with one good eye. Genius is often difficult to fathom, I thought, but has it ever been so unmistakable?

Even leaving aside his vision, Pataudi was a very good batsman, a great fielder, and, arguably, an even better captain. As Raju Bharatan said, in the Hindu, after Pataudi was awarded the C.K. Nayudu Award in 2001, “Tiger it was who brought the Indian cricket team out of its slavish British fixation, a fixation abiding in the 1960s. Tiger inspirationally let it be known that each member of the Indian team simply had to learn to stand shoulder to shoulder when face to face with the white man on the field of play. Tiger’s being in no way awed by the white-skinned opponent helped cut the Gordian knot of the Indian team’s facing the `Englishman to man”.”

And it was Pataudi, crucially, who got the best out of the famous quartet of spinners – B.S. Chandrasekhar, Bishan Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, and S. Venkataraghavan. As Prasanna puts it: “He was primarily responsible for developing India’s spin quartet in an aggressive role similar to what the West Indians had later in form of the pace quartet.”

Till this date, though, whenever I had thought of Pataudi, his impaired vision had played but a minimal role in my consideration. In spite of making the odd public appearance, and in spite of being the husband and father of popular film stars, Pataudi had an air of detached elegance to him – he was an almost debonair, mythical figure to me. Every time I saw him, I wished I had been there to watch him bat. Oh boy, he must have been fun to watch, I used to think.

Today, though, I wonder, how much greater he could have been had he had two good eyes. I am led to believe that the Indian media, particularly the broadcast media, is inundated with accolades concentrating on his impaired vision as opposed to appreciating his pure contribution to the sport. For Pataudi, notwithstanding his eyesight, was indubitably a great cricketer. The Internet, though, mercifully, contains enough tributes that narrate the Pataudi story with authority and excellence that only those who had seen him closely can provide, so I won’t tread down that path. What I can say, though, is that despite my reluctance to concentrate on his impaired vision, the circumstances of the day – with his genius presenting itself to me so obviously – commands me to wonder how much greater he could have been with two good eyes.

[First posted at:]