How Pataudi became Test cricket's youngest captain

If it hadn't been for Nari Contractor's injury during the 1961-62 tour of West Indies, Tiger Pataudi would not have become Test cricket's youngest captain. Contractor recalls the series

If it hadn't been for Nari Contractor's head injury on the West Indies tour of 1961-62, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who passed away yesterday, wouldn't have become the youngest Test captain at 21 years and 77 days.

In Royal compony: Nari Contractor (right) with Nawab of Pataudi
during a domestic cricket match.
Pic/MiD DAY archives

Contractor, who nearly lost his life when he was hit by Charlie Griffith in the Indians vs Barbados game, said Pataudi was the best choice in the circumstances. "I was on the committee (which picked Pataudi).

Polly Umrigar was going to retire and it was felt that a youngster should be given a chance. Given his English background, he was a good public speaker too which worked to his advantage," Contractor told MiD DAY yesterday.

The former captain recalled how Pataudi hadn't played much on that West Indies tour: "In fact, I forced him to play that  game in Barbados. I remember we went for a party at Gerry Alexander's place in Jamaica and Wes Hall played a prank. The next thing I saw was Nawab running up a tree. All the while, there was talk about a thigh sprain so I told him that if he can run up a tree, he could play the match and so he did."

Pataudi went on to lead India in a record 40 Tests while Contractor didn't play a Test after that injury. The left-handed opening batsman thought very highly of his successor's leadership. Ask him about what he thought about Pataudi's style of captaincy which did not encourage fast bowlers and Contractor shoots back: "Which fast bowlers are you referring to? Ramakant Desai was on the decline when Nawab started leading India and the few who were around were mediocre."

Pataudi's fielding impressed Contractor. "We had a good fielding side in the West Indies on the 1961-62 tour... Chandu Borde, Polly Umrigar, Farokh Engineer, Rusi Surti and Nawab. He was very quick, accurate and had very good anticipation."

For Contractor, the best innings from Pataudi was the hundred he scored against Ted Dexter's Englishmen in the Chennai Test of the 1961-62 series. "That was a super innings and we had a partnership (104 for the third wicket with Contractor scoring 86). Pataudi scored his first Test hundred in 155 minutes. That was the last Test in which Contractor and Pataudi batted together."

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