Sportsnasha has started a video blog series on great cricket captains. Sportsnansha has interviewed former Indian Cricketer Mr. Yajurvindra Singh about his experiences and views about various captains. We start off with one of India’s greatest – MAK Pataudi or Tiger as we call him fondly.
When asked about is experience with Tiger, Mr. Yajurvindra Singh spoke extensively about various
aspects about The Nawab. Here are some excerpts – Tiger Pataudi was a very close friend. I didn’t play Test cricket under him, but played a lot of club cricket. He was one of India’s best captains. The Nawab was originally from Haryana but he played domestic cricket for Hyderabad and South Zone. However, he never captained those sides. In fact, he didn’t captain any of the local sides he played for. He didn’t crave captaincy which might be the reason why he was such a good leader. Being from a royal background he had a position of great respect everywhere. Hence his word had a great value even at the administrative level.
To captain India is always a big challenge. You have players coming from different backgrounds with different languages and different cultures. Hence it’s a tough job managing them and getting the best out of them as a leader. But Tiger did that exceptionally. He had also played a fair bit of cricket in England. So he never thought that The English were better than us at any time. He identified India’s strength in spin bowling and that is when India discovered its famous spinning quartet. He always believed in playing to the team’s strength and hence India always bolstered the side with spinners.
When WI toured India in 1975, India were trailing 0-2 to the visitors. India brought in Pataudi in the team purely for his acumen as a captain. At that time, he was battling with his hampered vision but due to his inspiring leadership India levelled the series 2-2. We lost the series 3-2 eventually to the mighty West Indies but Pataudi was outstanding as a captain through the series. He was a strategist. He was aggressive, both as a captain and as a batsman.
Tiger backed his team all the time. In 1969 when the debutant GR Vishwanath scored a duck, there was a lot of criticism on his selection. Initially the selectors were a bit sceptical about his selection but Pataudi insisted to include a young Vishy in the team. Vishwanath scored a century in the next innings and the rest is history! Pataudi believed that if you want to win games, you need to back your strength. When India played against strong opponents like The West Indies, the islanders would usually dominate. In spite of it, Pataudi backed his players. When the Windies batsmen were dominating our spinners – Chandra, Prasanna and Bedi; Tiger gave them the comfort and confidence.
In the 3 rd test in the 1975 series against The WI, on the last day Clive Lloyd was batting quite magnificently. He was milking the Indian spinners, especially Chandrashekhar. However, Pataudi had the belief in the offie and he persisted with him. Chandra, eventually got rid of Lloyd which triggered a collapse and India went on to win that Test. People like Prasanna, Bedi, Engineer talk very highly about Pataudi as a captain as he always supported his players even in tough times. Pataudi also played a pivotal role in developing close-in catching for spinners. I wouldn’t have been fielding at short leg if it wasn’t for Tiger. I remember an incident that took place in The Pataudi memorial tournament in Bhopal. Tiger had invited me to play the tournament. I, quite naturally was nervous. He was India’s captain then and I was very young. When we went in to field, he came to me and asked where I do normally field. Like any youngster, I said “Anywhere Sir. Wherever you say”. He said “Then you must be a damn good fielder!” I became even more nervous. He asked me to field at forward short leg which was the last place I wanted to field. I was terrified with the fact that if I drop a catch in front of The Nawab, I would be letting him down. But I took 3 catches in that innings.
Later on he came to me, put his arm around and said “Whether you like it or not, you are very good at this position. You should take this seriously, continue fielding at short leg and work hard on it.” Those words from the then Indian captain really got me thinking. And I started to work even harder on fielding at forward short leg. He even told me once “When you play Test Cricket, make sure you are fielding at short leg because you can break records there!” He was present at Bangalore in my first ever test match vs England in 1977 where I took to 7 catches in the match to create a world record.
And he reminded me of what he had told me earlier. I will always be grateful of Tiger for making me
work hard on my fielding. The Nawab also had a very good sense of humour. But it was subtle. He would crack witty one-liners which would have you in splits. He was a legend and India were blessed to have had a captain like