Tiger was a true leader, great batsman: says Contractor


Kolkata : Nari Contractor, who captained Tiger Pataudi in his debut Test and whose head injury propelled Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi to the hot seat of Indian cricket skipper, described him as a “true leader” and a “great batsman”.

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The 77-year-old felt Pataudi’s outstanding fielding ability has seldom been matched in Indian cricket.

It was under Contractor that Pataudi made his Test debut in Delhi in December 1961 against England. He scored 13 in his maiden knock.

“He was the youngest member of the side, elegant, fun loving,” Contractor recalled.

“He was a talented batsmen, capable of making swashbuckling strokes. And as a fielder, I think if you had pitted him against any member of the present Indian team, he would have been a shade better,” he said.

The two were involved in a 104-run third wicket stand in Chennai in the final Test where Pataudi scored his maiden Test ton.

With the selectors convinced of Pataudi’s leadership ability, he was made the vice captain for the next tour to the West Indies in 1962. The general idea was that with Contractor, who was going great guns both as a captain and a batsman, likely to last several more years, Pataudi would have sufficient time to learn the ropes of leading the national side.

“There were three candidates for the vice captain’s job. “Polly (Umrigar), (Chandu) Borde and Pataudi were the contenders. But the selectors preferred Pataudi because of his background and because he had captained Oxford,” Contractor told IANS over phone.

In the West Indies, Pataudi opted out of the first two Tests complaining of a groin injury.

But the script took an unexpected turn as Contractor had a near fatal head injury negotiating a Charlie Griffith delivery in a colony game against Barbados. Unconscious for six days, that was the last time Contractor played for India.

Pataudi, at 21, was announced as Indian captain, and continued in the post with some breaks till 1975 when he quit the game.

“My association with him was short. He never played under me in the West Indies tour. But when I got injured and returned home, he took over as captain,” Contractor recalled.

“Leading India during those times was difficult. We did not have proper pacers. He, however, got the famous spinners (B.S. Bedi, B.S. Chandrasekhar, EAS Prasanna and S. Venkatraghavan). He was a true leader. I have admired him from outside,” said Contractor, who now resides in Mumbai.