Former India off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna enjoyed a special bond with the late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.
Prasanna at an awards ceremony in Mumbai. PIC/Rane Ashish
Prasanna remembered times when, after bowling his first ball, he would turn to 'Tiger' for a field replacement.
Quickly though Prasanna would discover that his skipper was already in the process of moving the fielder to the exact same position he wanted. That was the sort of telepathy that captain and bowler shared.
An emotional Prasanna attributes everything he achieved in international cricket to Pataudi. "It's a personal loss to me, and the greatest loss to Indian cricket. Just two weeks ago I saw him in London, and now he's no longer with us.
"It's painful to know that he's gone. Whatever I am today, whatever success I achieved as a player, I owe to him," Prasanna told MiD DAY yesterday.
Prasanna fondly recalled the 1974-75 home series against West Indies when Pataudi returned as India captain.
"He (Pataudi) knew that he had a responsibility to return as captain and lead us.
The minute he returned as skipper, we were a different team. That was the sort of influence he had over us.
And he knew deep down inside that the country needed his services, and he responded," he said.
Under the captaincy of Pataudi, Prasanna took an incredible 116 wickets in 23 Tests with nine five-wicket hauls. Pataudi snapped many of those catches in the slip cordon.
"His catching was so good because he was an exceptional all-round cricketer who could do it all. Honestly, I can't express what an irreplaceable loss this is for the sport," he concluded.
When Pras shone under Pataudi
* 25 wickets in four Tests in Australia (1967-68)
* 24 wickets in four Tests in New Zealand (1967-68)
* 20 wickets in three home Tests vs NZ (1969-70)
* 26 wickets in four home Tests vs Aus (1969-70)
Overall: 23 Tests, 116 wickets, Average: 27