India v Pakistan, 1st Test, Mohali, 2nd day March 9, 2005

A Begum and a Jaisimha fan

Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, was quite a looker himself © The Cricketer International

As the reporters sit despondently in the press box on the morning of the second day of the Mohali Test, gazing out at the drizzle, IS Bindra, the chief of the Punjab Cricket Association, walks in. "Begum Pataudi is addressing a press conference soon," he announces.

Begum Pataudi? It must be Baig and Pataudi, I tell myself. Abbas Ali Baig and Tiger Pataudi must be here, and are meeting the press. That doesn't sound too bad. Nostalgic questions can be asked about old series. I rise up in satisfaction, walk down to the hall where the press conferences take place, and Sharmila Tagore walks in.

Tagore is the immaculately pedigreed lady - her grandfather was the Nobel laureate Rabindranath - who has acted for Satyajit Ray and with Rajesh Khanna, though never in the same film. To top it all, she then got married to Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, also known as Tiger, as if he was a balm. Cricket and Bollywood, thus, were married long before Lagaan. She went on to have children who became actors, and is now the chairman of the censor board of India. If she doesn't like a scene in a new film, she says "snip", and negatives fall to the floor, where they roll raunchily.

She talks about both films and cricket. Or rather, about censorship and cricket. "You have to pay importance to regional sensibilities," she says. "Every culture is different." Phrases like "commodification of women" slip out fluidly, and she talks of "seminars on obscenity". She says that "obscenity" had increased in recent years, but also admits that so has the status of women in India. "They [women in India] have more money," she says, "but emancipation must be accompanied by responsibility."

Then we move to the cricket, and, to, inevitably, her husband. She is asked about the qualities that made him such a fine leader, and she replies: "He is a patient man. He is non-biased, in the sense that he never has a predetermined view towards anything. He listens to everyone, and is quick to get to the essence of a problem. That gives him credibility, and people trust him."

She is a lady who likes her cricket, "especially the five-day game". So when was the first time she saw Pataudi play? "Against West Indies," she says, "but I was a fan of [ML] Jaisimha." She smiles. Jaisimha, of course, is considered by many to be the best captain India never had, and this is the wife of the man who captained in his stead. Poignant.

She departs after revealing that Rahul Dravid is her favourite current Indian cricketer. She refuses to comment on who the "best-looking" one is. As IS Bindra thanks the press for attending, he informs us: "She has bowled all of you over." We nod appreciatively.

After I return to the press box, a colleague who had remained there asks me, "So how was Abbas Ali Baig?"

"Nice," I reply. "But he was much prettier when he was young."

Amit Varma is contributing editor of Cricinfo. He writes the independent blogs, India Uncut and The Middle Stage.