Tiger's tale: Sharmila takes a walk down the Pataudi years
While doing so, Sharmila recalled five cricket-specific memories during her 47-year association with India’s most charismatic captain — Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi.
Well over 40 of those 47 years were as Tiger’s begum.
203 not out versus England, at the Kotla, in February 1964: I’d met Tiger in the previous Test, in Calcutta... We’d been introduced by Jai (the late M. L. Jaisimha) and Tiger, I remember, had given me the telephone number of Pataudi House in New Delhi... I was shooting for Waqt in Nainital the day Tiger got the double hundred and I decided to congratulate him. He wasn’t in, so I left a message with my contact number. Well, Tiger returned the call... Would I have called Tiger if he hadn’t got that double? Probably not. I’d become a fan of Tiger, yes, but it’s not that he’d become my heart-throb. Not right then... Was I aware of the following Tiger enjoyed and of the attention he received from women? Of course.
148 versus England, at Headingley, in June 1967: I caught up with Tiger immediately after that Test... In those days, WAGs weren’t allowed on tours... Soon after that Test, Tiger proposed.
1967-68 tour of Australia: Tiger didn’t want to go on that tour, for it was soon after we’d been engaged... In fact, he went into hiding in Bhopal and had to be persuaded to undertake that tour of many months. Those days, there were no cellphones and one even had to book calls within the country... I hadn’t yet got the landline connection at my Mumbai residence and (the late) Raj Singh Dungarpur became a messiah. He allowed me to use the phone at his residence, off Marine Drive. So, twice a week, I’d go over to his flat in Vijay Mahal either at 1 am or 2 am... Odd timings, but that’s because the time difference was a factor... I don’t know what Raj Singh’s neighbours thought of my nocturnal visits to his place, but Tiger and I were able to keep our romance going. Raj Singh was one of a kind.
[Tiger finished the Test series with the best average — 58.50. Despite injuries, his batting simply stood out.]
1970-71 tour of the West Indies: Tiger had been removed as captain (by the late Vijay Merchant’s casting vote) and wasn’t in the team either... After years of playing for India, it was an unusual scenario. Saif, however, was born a few months earlier and he helped Tiger get over the disappointment... Not that he was ever the type to moan... Word was that Merchant had plenty of antipathy towards Tiger, that he was vindictive. I can’t say and I don’t recall Tiger himself speaking on those lines, though. Others said so... He never carried any baggage... Tiger was happy when India made history in the West Indies, winning under Ajit Wadekar. After all, it had largely been his team... His players.
2011 tour of England: Unlike in 2007, when Tiger presented the Pataudi Trophy (to Rahul Dravid) in a rather informal manner, the England & Wales Cricket Board formally invited Tiger to make the presentation, at The Oval, in August 2011. As it turned out, England thrashed us 4-0... Tiger hadn’t been keeping well, but still chose to travel... Owing to a bad mix-up, the presentation was somewhat of a shambles... Perhaps, the master of ceremonies, Michael Atherton, hadn’t been briefed properly... Result is that Tiger was left flummoxed on the stage and the family very upset. Typically, Tiger didn’t want an issue to be made... I wanted to write a letter of protest, but Tiger asked me not to interfere in a cricket matter. Sadly, Tiger’s last public appearance was at The Oval... Within a week or so of coming home, he was hospitalised and we lost him in a month. (Tiger was 70 when he passed away.)
On presenting the Pataudi Trophy, to England captain Alastair Cook, last August...: Tiger should have been around to give it away... But, after the fiasco of 2011, a proper ceremony brought closure to an issue which had upset me, especially, in a big way... Tiger’s no longer with us in person, yet he’s there all the time.
Finally, first gift from Tiger...: (Laughs) Imported chocolates, five of them, I think... He’d sent them over to Mumbai.
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