Of Departure and Arrival

“I reallyrespected him” – This remark may neither raise eyebrows nor would itregister very strongly on anyone’s mind. But if you know that it was SachinTendulkar making such a remark, you would stick to the word ‘really’ and startadmiring the person, whoever the great batsman is referring to.
Tendulkar wasreferring to Former Indian captain MansoorAli Khan Pataudi, who passed away on 22nd of September 2011. Itwould be interesting to know that Tendulkar was barely a 2-year old whenPataudi played his last International match. It needs sheer genius in a personto earn respect, in the heart of a cricketer who started playing seriouscricket, a decade after he had retired.
Most of us, who have grown in the constant shower of cricket, justbecause we are close to India, have heard of him. Hardly a few have seen himplay. Yet we know of him. Probably, among the cricketers who played before thetelevision era, he was the only icon that we knew, with the exception of Sir DonBradman and Great Garry Sobers. Not many can boast to have such a longshelf-life after retiring, something most sportsmen would envy.
Having seen him only in interviews, except some grainy black and whitetelevision footages, yours truly learnt that cricket is just an extension ofthis princely being. The aura of the Republican Prince – as termed by a cricketwriter – was overwhelming. A desire to interview the person behind Ray Banglasses grew. It’s perhaps not worth mentioning that yours truly could only getto as far as meeting Sharmila Tagore, his wife for 4 decades.
As I asked her, how it felt to have been married to a Rockstar cricketer,she would reply, “I married a human being. His cricket never interferedour lives.” A line with a smile, which used to floor millions during herfilm days, now with added affection… A lesson you learn, in life – Keepthings simple.
We’ve seen a lotof cricketers who could not carry the weight of their lineage. Ask, RohanGavaskar (son of Sunil Gavaskar) and Liam Botham (son of Ian Botham), howdifficult it could be. Mansoor Ali Khan had a proud lineage to live up to,cricket historians and writers still write about Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi’sleg glance and his famous opposition to Douglas Jardine’s Bodyline tactics.
Yet he became theyoungest Test captain of the world – the record remained till Tatenda Taibubecame Zimbabwe’s captain in 2004 – and made India a team that could winmatches abroad (India won its first abroad series under him). He is the onecredited with giving Indian cricket a new and proud face, 4 decades beforeSourav Ganguly patented the style towards turn of the century. Khan would beremembered for developing Indian spin quartet as a force, akin to what the WestIndians developed in form of the pace quartet, albeit much later. All thishappened, after he had already lost vision in one of his eyes. Interesting tolearn that he donated another one, a week before he died…
One reason why thegreat Imran Khan said, “… he was a genius of great proportions.”
While the cricket worldpays farewell to Pataudi, we wait for our next coach, Former Sri Lankan Cricketer Pubudu Dassanayake, who’s due to arrive comingweek. He has already said that he would want to take Nepal to higherrank and possibly into the World Cup. We would love to see that. He has alreadyproved his mettle, taking Canadian team into the World Cup.
One thingDassanayake would do well to remember is that his compatriot, Roy Dias has alreadydone the groundwork. He would rather not reinvent the wheel and try to add onto the achievements we’ve already had. Much will also depend on how ‘localized’he gets and tries to earn the respect of the players, who sometimes get complacentand carried away.
(PS: The write-upappeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The KathmanduPost, on 24th September, 2011)

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