Cricket’s Prince Charm­ing

Stabroek News Sunday - - NEWS -

Third Test, West Indies ver­sus In­dia, Kens­ing­ton Oval, Bar­ba­dos, first day, 26th March, 1962. The two Cap­tains descend the steps of the Pick­wick pav­il­ion and head out on to the pitch to spin the toss. Frank Wor­rell, the West In­dian skip­per flips the coin into the air, the In­dian Cap­tain calls…

………… .. To the Manor born

Mo­ham­mad Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi was born into a life of priv­i­lege and lux­ury. Iftikhar Ali Khan, the Eighth Nawab of Pataudi, his fa­ther ruled over the state of Pataudi, one of 350 princely states formed by the Bri­tish in In­dia. Pataudi, with a pop­u­la­tion of 25,000 was only about the size of the English county Rut­land, was lo­cated in the Pun­jab, in North­ern In­dia, about 30 miles south-west of Delhi.

The Pataudi heir was born in Bhopal where his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther was the Nawab. Young Khan grew up in a 150 room white-walled palace, at­tended by a hun­dred ser­vants, eight of whom were as­signed to him. Pataudi Jr. and his three sis­ters were home schooled in the early years and lived a rou­tine life of break­fast, study time, play ses­sions, lunch and so forth.

Young Pataudi soon ac­quired a moniker, a trait that would fol­low him all his life. “As an in­fant it seems I had a tiger­ish propen­sity for crawl­ing en­er­get­i­cally about the floor on all fours,” he once ex­plained in an in­ter­view, and be­came known as Tiger to his par­ents and friends. Tiger, in ad­di­tion to crawl­ing and run­ning all over the cas­tle, was soon in­tro­duced to cricket, hockey and foot­ball, and played with the peo­ple of the vil­lage and the palace staff.

As a rite of man­hood for young Princes of the day, Tiger learnt to ride and shoot at an early age. “As soon as a boy-child was able to stand, he was sad­dled on a horse… We are ba­si­cally Afghans with a bit of Turk­ish blood who came down a few hun­dred years or so ago as glo­ri­fied mer­ce­nar­ies, rushed around on our horses and oc­cu­pied space for our­selves. Over the years, we’ve be­come a lit­tle more so­phis­ti­cated,” he later re­called. His drill­mas­ter was very strict and had the Nawab’s per­mis­sion to en­force dis­ci­pline which was em­pha­sized fairly strictly. He re­mem­bers com­ing face to face with his first real tiger at seven or eight, and for­get­ting the in­struc­tions he re­ceived be­fore the hunt to stay in the back­ground, he fired a shot at it, miss­ing the an­i­mal.

In 1947, on the eve of In­de­pen­dence, the Eighth Nawab of Pataudi and the other heads of princely states signed the In­stru­ment of Ac­ces­sion, thereby re­lin­quish­ing all executive author­ity over their states. Af­ter in­de­pen­dence, the Nawab got a job in the Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­istry in Delhi and his heir was sent to Wel­ham Boys’ School, a board­ing school in Dehra Dun in the foothills of the Hi­malayas, for three years.

Iftikhar, the only crick­eter to rep­re­sent both Eng­land and In­dia, cap­tain­ing the lat­ter on three oc­ca­sions, had em­u­lated his fel­low In­dian roy­alty, K S (the Great Ranji) Ran­jitsin­hji, the Jam Sahib of Nawana­gar and Ranji’s nephew, K S Duleepsin­hji, with a cen­tury on his Ashes de­but. In the Nawab’s in­stance, it was his also Test de­but, at the SCG (Syd­ney Cricket Ground) in the now in­fa­mous Body­line se­ries in Aus­tralia in 1932-33. The Nawab dis­agreed with the English Cap­tain Dou­glas Jar­dine’s tac­tics and even­tu­ally left the tour.

“On Jan­uary 5, 1952, my 11th birth­day, my fa­ther died of a heart at­tack while play­ing polo in Delhi; he was 41. The In­dian gov­ern­ment recog­nised me as his suc­ces­sor, but I was merely the tit­u­lar head. It was my mother whom the fam­ily recog­nised as its head, which was an hon­our, with so­cial and fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions to the fam­ily and the Pataudi

com­mu­nity. By then, in any case, the nawab­ship was with­out executive author­ity, which is why I wasn’t ex­actly weighed down with royal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties…,” was the Ninth Nawab of Pataudi’s recol­lec­tion of his as­cen­dancy.

“We Pataudis like to live life to the full and tend to die young,” the Prince would later sum up his ances­tors.

…….

When the West Indies 1951-52 tour of Aus­tralia and New Zealand was over, the main body of the team sailed from Auck­land to Trinidad, on the S S Ran­ji­toto on Fri­day, 29th Fe­bru­ary, 1929. Mean­while, the pro­fes­sion­als, Wil­lie Fer­gu­son, Roy Mar­shall, Sonny Ra­mad­hin, Ken­neth Rickards, Alf Valen­tine, Clyde Wal­cott, Ever­ton Weekes and Frank Wor­rell had ear­lier flown to Syd­ney to con­nect with their boat bound for Eng­land.

……. The Noob

A few weeks later the Ninth Nawab of Pataudi de­parted for Eng­land ac­com­pa­nied by his mother. The heir was destined for Lock­ers Park School, a prepara­tory board­ing school in Hert­ford­shire, where the for­mer Eng­land all­rounder Frank Wool­ley was the cricket coach. His sis­ters were reg­is­tered for school in Switzer­land. Thence, he moved on to Winch­ester Col­lege, a boys’ board­ing school in the English pub­lic school tra­di­tion where he was the lone stu­dent of In­dian de­scent. Winch­ester Col­lege, es­tab­lished in 1382, is the old­est of the orig­i­nal seven English pub­lic schools and claims the long­est un­bro­ken his­tory of any school in Eng­land, and has been at the same lo­ca­tion in Winch­ester, Hamp­shire for over 600 years.

At Winch­ester where the young Nawab was ac­corded no priv­i­leges, his tu­tors re­ferred to him as Mansur, while his col­leagues anointed him with the ti­tle of ‘The Noob.’ It was here, his love of cricket im­parted to him by Iftikhar, blos­somed.

In the words of his fel­low alumni, David Wool­ley, “It [Winch­ester] was, and re­mains a cu­ri­ous place, reg­u­lated by ‘no­tions,’ these be­ing cus­toms and us­ages gov­ern­ing lan­guage, be­hav­iour and dress, and en­forced with a rigour which the Medes and Per­sians would have thought ex­ces­sive. There were rules di­rect­ing who might walk or sit where, a lan­guage ca­pa­ble of be­ing wholly in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to out­siders…who might wear whites for cricket.”

Ac­cord­ing to The Wyke­hamist, the Winch­ester Col­lege school mag­a­zine, in July 1955, a re­port of the in­ter-house un­der-16 cricket com­pe­ti­tion, the Toye Cup read, “K [House], for whom Pataudi was the most pro­lific scorer in the com­pe­ti­tion, were not as strong as last year.”

“On ar­rival in the school, a boy had to play the game in grey flan­nels and brown boots. A mod­er­ately dis­tin­guished feat or feats with bat or ball would see him el­e­vated to Flan­nel Roll, per­mit­ted white flan­nels and boots,” Wool­ley con­tin­ued. The prince was soon mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance for the Lords, the school’s first XI, and shortly af­ter, he was ‘given his [white] flan­nels.’

The Noob’s prow­ess with the bat con­tin­ued to grow in leaps and bounds. Wool­ley, ‘draw­ing heav­ily on The Wyke­hamist and the Wis­den Crick­eters Al­manack’ –which has recorded Pub­lic Schools’ cricket since its se­cond edi­tion in 1865, and ob­vi­ously still in awe at the school­boy mem­o­ries of his fel­low Old Wyke­hamist, or Old Wok, as they would re­fer to each other amongst them­selves, writes, ”In 1957, the storm which had long threat­ened fi­nally broke. Af­ter an in­nings of ‘real class’ against the Bank of Eng­land, Pataudi took the MCC for 124 not out, pro­vok­ing the prophetic com­ment that he…’ played bril­liantly to score the first of what must surely be a num­ber of cen­turies for Lords’. This year two other fea­tures of his cricket emerged. Al­ways an ag­gres­sive and ath­letic fielder, es­pe­cially at cover point, he be­gan to take wick­ets in the Marl­bor­ough match… His 73 not out in that [Sher­bourne] match con­tained ‘…eleven con­sec­u­tive fours; any­thing short of a length was hooked sum­mar­ily…Pataudi seem to have aeons of time to play his strokes, and mixed a sure de­fen­sive tech­nique with his usual range of drives, pulls and hooks.’ Two other fea­tures of this in­nings, were the fe­roc­ity of his at­tack when he chose and the time he had in which to de­cide to do so.” Reads al­most like P G Wode­house’s Mike at Wrykyn.

By 1959, The Noob, as was in­evitable for some time, was the Winch­ester cap­tain. On his way to an­other cen­tury, this time against a Cana­dian School­boys tour­ing side, he passed 1,000 runs for the sea­son, which ended with a to­tal of 1,068 runs, at an av­er­age of 71.20. Though he never ac­knowl­edged it pub­licly, re­mov­ing all of Dou­glas Jar­dine’s bat­ting records at Winch­ester must have been rather pleas­ing to The Noob.

Next week the Ninth Nawab of Pataudi en­ters the Test arena.

Even at a young age, Mansur Ali Khan had the re­gal ap­pear­ance of a Prince

The Nawab of Pataudi Jr. at bat.

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