The Nawab of Pataudi Senior

NAWAB IFTIKHAR ALI OF PATAUDI, who died after a heart attack while playing polo at New Delhi on January 5, at the age of 41, will always be associated with Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji as three great Indian batsmen who became leading figures in English cricket. Pataudi, known as "Pat" throughout the world, achieved the rare distinction of representing England and India in Test Cricket.

Born at Pataudi in the Punjab on March 16, 1910, he went to Chiefs' College, Lahore, and received cricket coaching from M. G. Salter, the Oxford Blue. Going to England in 1926, he obtained further guidance from Frank Woolley, the Kent and England left-hander. In October 1927 Pataudi went to Oxford, but had to wait until 1929 before gaining his Blue. That season he accomplished little with the bat until the University match, when his innings of 106 and 84 went a long way towards saving the game.

The following year he disappointed against Cambridge, but on his third appearance in 1931 he reached the height of his powers. In form from the start of the season, he scored 1,307 runs in 16 innings and finished top of the Oxford batting with the splendid average of 93. In successive innings he made 183 not out against The Army at Folkestone, 165 and 100 against Surrey at The Oval and 138 and 68 against H. D. G. Leveson Gower's XI at Eastbourne. Even this he overshadowed with a remarkable 238 not out against Cambridge at Lord's, the highest individual score ever made in the University match.

On the previous day A. Ratcliffe, of Cambridge, made 201, beating the previous best University score of 172 not out made by J. F. Marsh of Cambridge in 1904. Ratcliffe's record lasted only a few hours and it was said that before going in Pataudi declared his intention of trying to pass that figure. That was typical of the man -- a great fighter who was at his best when a definite challenge was at hand. The innings caused him so much physical and nervous strain that he collapsed on his return to the pavilion.

His health was never strong and he was not always fit when touring Australia with D. R. Jardine's team in 1932-33. Nevertheless, he added another great triumph to his name by scoring a century in his First Test Match and helping England to victory by ten wickets at Sydney. He played in the next Test but did little, and was left out for the remaining three games.

Pataudi did not allow his disappointment to upset him, and on returning to England he was again in fine form for Worcestershire, his adopted county. In 1934 he was once more chosen for England against Australia, but scored only 12 and 10 at Nottingham in the First Test, and ill-health handicapped him afterwards. Although making occasional appearances for Worcestershire, he virtually dropped out of the game, but surprised everyone by returning to England as captain of the Indian touring team in 1946. He showed glimpses of his class, notably when becoming one of four batsmen to score a hundred in the same innings against Sussex at Hove, and finished third in the averages, but he was again handicapped by ill-health and he failed in the three Test matches.

After that tour Pataudi again dropped out of cricket, but he made one more attempt to return. In November 1951 M.C.C. approved an application for Pataudi to be regarded as still qualified to play for Worcestershire, and it was expected that he would appear occasionally for the county, despite his age of 41. He died a few weeks later.

A quick-footed batsman with a splendid eye, Pataudi possessed a wide variety of strokes, but did not have the fluency of his Indian predecessors, Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji. He was also a fine hockey and billiards player and an accomplished speaker, although some considered his wit to be sharp and cynical. After the partition of India and Pakistan, Pataudi, a Moslem, found himself without a State to rule, but preserved his ruling status and was employed in the Indian Foreign Office in New Delhi. He left three daughters besides an eleven-year-old son, who has shown promise of developing into a good cricketer.

© John Wisden & Co