“Winchester College was founded in the fourteenth century by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor to Edward III and Richard II. The charter of foundation was granted in 1382, the buildings were begun in 1387 and the first scholars entered the School in 1394” – Winchester College website.
Exactly 520 years after those first scholars walked in through its doors, Winchester College, the longest-running public school in England, admitted a boy who would go on to become one of the most controversial figures in the history of cricket. For a man who played only 22 Test matches for England, 15 of those as captain, Douglas Robert Jardine was to divide the cricketing world like few men before or after him have done.
But that was all in the future.
Douglas Jardine – Winchester to Bodyline
Born in Bombay of Scottish parents (his father Malcolm was also born in Bombay) young Douglas attended Horris Hill School, near Newbury, Berkshire and from 1912, he played cricket for the school first eleven, enjoying success as a bowler and as a batsman. He led the team in his final year, and the team was unbeaten under his captaincy. As a schoolboy, Jardine was influenced by the writing of former England captain C. B. Fry on batting technique, which contradicted the advice of his coach at Horris Hill. Even at the age of 12, Jardine was self-assured enough to quote Fry to his coach and continued batting the way he deemed right.
When Jardine joined Winchester, his reputation as a promising school cricketer preceded him. In a school like Winchester which had produced several first class and Test cricketers, sporting abilities were treated almost with reverence. It was a little surprise therefore that he was in the first eleven for three years from 1917 and received coaching from some very distinguished cricketers. He also became captain despite some doubts within the school about his ability to unify the team.
(It is worth noting that a decade later those doubts had not dissipated. When it was confirmed that Jardine would captain England in Australia, Rockley Wilson, his old cricket master at Winchester, quipped: “We may well win the Ashes, but we may very well lose a dominion.” Events on that tour would, of course, make Wilson’s words almost prophetic.)
Notwithstanding those doubts, under Jardine, Winchester won their annual match against Eton College in 1919, a fixture in which Eton usually held the upper hand. Jardine’s batting (35 and 89 in the match) and captaincy were key factors in his side’s first victory over Eton for 12 years. After his retirement from cricket, he named his 89 in that match as his favourite innings. Jardine went on to score 135 not out against Harrow School. To cap off his illustrious school career, in 1919, his final year, Jardine came top of the school batting averages with 997 runs at an average of 66.46 a record none had come close to in Winchester history and there was little expectation anyone would in the future.
After Winchester Jardine went to Oxford and played county cricket for Surrey. In 1928 he made his Test debut against the West Indies who were playing their first ever Test series. In 1928-29 he went to Australia with the MCC as a part of a very strong batting side and gave a good account of himself playing in all five Test matches and scoring 341 runs at an average of 42.62. His cautious batting and his perceived superiority complex, however, got him into trouble equally with the crowds and the press. During his third century at the start of the tour, during a period of abuse from the spectators, he observed to a sympathetic Hunter Hendry that “All Australians are uneducated, and an unruly mob“. After the innings, when Patsy Hendren said that the Australian crowds did not like Jardine, he replied “It’s fucking mutual”
Such then was the relationship between Douglas Jardine and Australia when he was handed the England captaincy for the 1932-33 tour down under. A plan was needed to tackle the rampaging Don Bradman, and going through footage and reports of the previous series and the Australian domestic season, and after discussions with Percy Fender, Jardine came to the conclusion that Bradman was weak against pace bowling on the leg side. In his not so subtle style, Jardine is said to have exclaimed: “He is yellow!” and thus was born ‘Bodyline.’
What happened thereafter is a matter of common knowledge – England won four of the five Tests, the two countries almost cut off diplomatic ties, Harold Larwood was made a scapegoat and never played for England again, and Jardine, despite the comprehensive Ashes victory, went back to a career in banking soon after and remained a controversial figure throughout his life and afterwards.
But for the sake of our story, we stay with the first Test match of the series.
The Nawab of Pataudi and Douglas Jardine
Selected for the first Test was an Indian prince who was following in the tradition of Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji in making his debut for England against Australia – Iftikhar Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, a 53 square mile princely state near Delhi.
Educated at Chiefs’ College (later renamed Aitchison College), Lahore, and at Balliol College, Oxford, Iftikhar’s cricketing talent was evident early and he was coached in England by Frank Woolley who played 64 Test matches for England. Woolley was one of the finest and most elegant left-handed all-rounders England have produced, and had a profound influence on Iftikhar, who by then had earned the nickname ‘Pat’ (short for Pataudi) during his time in England.
In the 1931 season, he scored 1,307 runs for Oxford and finished with a batting average of 93, heading the Oxford averages. In the University Match that year, Alan Ratcliffe scored 201 for Cambridge, a new record. Pataudi declared that he would beat it, and hit 238* on the very next day. This stood as a record for the University Match until 2005. Pataudi qualified to play for Worcestershire in 1932 and his total dominance of Tich Freeman with marvellous footwork during an innings of 165 for the Gentlemen at Lord’s in July 1932 gained him a place on the Ashes tour for that winter and got him named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1932.
It was a little surprise therefore that Jardine had no hesitation in including Pataudi in his team for the first Test at Sydney. The selection was immediately justified, as Pataudi scored a century on debut. A match report of the time states: “Emulating Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji, Pataudi gained the distinction of scoring a century in his first Test against Australia. Neat in his footwork, he was extremely cautious, and scored most of his runs behind the wicket.”
Pataudi was not required to bat in the second innings as England scored 524 and bowled Australia out for 360 and 164. The trouble, however, started even before England batted and continued into Australia’s second innings.
Bradman did not play the match as he was ruled unfit, but that did not prevent Jardine from employing his leg-side theory. Larwood started off with an orthodox field and later switched to a leg stump line but to quote Worrall a former Australian cricketer, “Voce’s half-pitched slingers on the body-line provided about the poorest attempt at what should be Test bowling it is possible to conceive. Even Larwood bowled ten on the leg to one on the wicket, and Voce did not bowl half a dozen balls on the wicket in 24 overs.” Several Australian batsmen wore chest and thigh pads, extremely unusual for the time, and Stan McCabe showed extraordinary courage in handling this bowling.
Larwood was in magnificent form taking 10 wickets in the match, with only two fielders on the off side for much of the time. The trouble between debutant Pataudi and Jardine started when Pataudi was asked to be one of the nine men on the leg. After complying and seeing the physical damage being wrought by this tactic, Pataudi walked up to Jardine and expressed his unwillingness to field in the ‘leg-trap’. Jardine famously retorted: “I see his Highness is a conscientious objector.”
The jab had little effect on Pataudi’s decision, and it is said that an exchange took place as recounted in the 1984 Australian drama documentary of the ‘Bodyline’ series:
Pataudi: I cannot play your way, Douglas.
Jardine: I’m your captain. Surely you’ll agree to abide by my decisions?
Pataudi: If I can’t?
Jardine: Then I should prefer it if you didn’t play at all.
Pataudi: Then that is how it must be. I cannot play your way, Douglas, my friend.
Jardine: You will never play Test cricket again.
Notwithstanding the undoubted dramatization of the conversation, Pataudi did play the next Test but his scores of 5 and 15 in at Melbourne gave Jardine the excuse he needed to drop the Nawab who played no further part in the series. His England career indeed ended for all practical purposes and when he was finally afforded another chance in 1934 in the last Test against Australia in 1934 after a first-class season when he averages 91.33, his health was failing and scores of 12 and 10 did nothing to prolong his career.
Pataudi was to play Test cricket again 12-years later when he captained the Indian Test team to England in 1946. He averaged 46.71 on that tour but was largely unsuccessful in the Test matches. 6 years later, the Nawab was dead at the age of 41 suffering a heart attack while playing Polo in Delhi, leaving as his heir a little boy who was waiting for his father to arrive home that evening before blowing out the flame on the 11 birthday candles. That was the last time a birthday was celebrated in the Pataudi palace for 60-years.
Tiger Pataudi arrives on the scene
While most contemporaries of Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi, or ‘Pataudi Jr.’ believed his nickname ‘Tiger’ came from his supreme fielding skills, in his autobiography the man himself suggested that as a child “I had a tigerish propensity for crawling energetically about the floor on all fours.” Whichever be the case, the fact is that the 11-year old boy that Iftikhar left behind would forever be known in the cricketing world as ‘Tiger’, and his deeds would only fan the romanticism around the sobriquet.
Tiger made his debut for Sussex at the age of 16 while still in school. Like his father, h went on to study at Balliol College Oxford and in 1961 while he was captain of Oxford, he was involved in a car accident in Hove, East Sussex and lost most of the sight in one eye. At the time he was just 92 short of the record of 1307 runs in a season with three games still to play and was being talked about as the most talented batsman of his time in English cricketing circles. Life seemed to have dealt the man born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and even crueller blow than the untimely passing of his father.
Tiger was however made of sterner stuff than that. In a couple of months, he was back on the cricket field with a lens to support the bad eye. That didn’t last long because he realized the lens made him see the ball twice, six inches apart, every time he faced a bowler. In his first major innings after the accident, playing against the MCC at Hyderabad, as his long-time friend Mike Brearley was to recall, Tiger scored 35 runs by playing the ball closer to him, and then threw away the lens trusting his good eye to play the ball and went on to score 70. He would never again use the lens while batting.
Within the year, Tiger had figured out how to bat with one eye and field better at cover than the other 10 players on the team, and was playing for India. In his third Test at Madras he would score 103 in two-and-a-half hours helping India beat England for the first time in a series. Asked by a journalist after the innings, when he first believed he could play Test cricket after his injury, pat came Tiger’s laconic reply: “When I first saw the English bowling!” A few months later, on the West Indies tour when Nari Contractor suffered a career-ending injury, Tiger took over the captaincy and became India’s youngest ever captain.
Tiger would go on to play 46 Test matches in his career, 40 of them as captain. As Bishan Bedi has remarked many a time, Tiger was the first captain to bring together the disparate regional elements in the Indian team by stressing their ‘Indianness’, the man who realized that the only way to counter other teams with better pace bowlers was to build the Indian attack around spinners, and captained the team to its first overseas series victory in New Zealand, more than 35-years after India first started playing Test cricket.
In 1963-64 leading India against England, he would fail in his first seven innings and score India’s first double century against England in the eighth. At Melbourne in 1967-68 his 75 and 85 against Australia made with one good eye and one good leg, on a green first day pitch is talked about to this day by his contemporaries.
Ian Chappell recalls: ““He had missed the first Test at Adelaide due to a hamstring injury. He was still half-fit, but chose to play because India’s batting was in poor health. He had a one-eye handicap and an injured leg. Throw in the inconsistent and overcast Melbourne weather and India’s position of 25 for five and you can understand how grim the scenario was. He just camped on his good leg, the back-foot.”
Chappell goes on to say he was extremely surprised at how during every rain break; Pataudi would walk to the middle with a new willow every time. There were around five to six breaks and each time came out with a different bat. When Chappell enquired that why he did so and how did he manage to play so well with different bats, Pataudi revealed he did not carry bats to the tour of Australia. “He (Pataudi) told me that he came in the tour with a sweater, jumper, a pair of trousers, a pair of socks, a pair of boots, jockstraps and nothing else. He said he the bat he picked up was always the one nearest to the dressing room door. In doing that he bludgeoned the Australian bowling attack to score 75 in the first innings and just to prove it wasn’t a fluke he got 85 in the second innings”
Ian Chappell also tells a story that shows how unassuming Tiger was. “On getting to know Tiger better, I decided to find out more about this man, Tiger Pataudi, so I asked him ‘Tiger what do you do for a job’ and he said ‘Ian, I am a prince.’ Princes aren’t a big thing in Australia and I was pretty naive so I asked him when he went to job what did he do, he just looked at me and said ‘Ian, I am a prince.’ I think my parents should have demanded a refund on my education because the message still didn’t get through to me as I said, “Between 9 and 5, what do you do?” He looked at me and said, ‘Ian, I’m a f*****g prince!’”
The Tiger’s Revenge
Nothing in Tiger Pataudi’s career however probably brought him as much personal satisfaction as his school cricket achievements.
In 1954, when young Tiger Pataudi arrived at school, it would coincidentally (or more likely as a result of his father’s foresight before he passed away) be Winchester, an excellent academic institution but one, as we have noted before, that revered sportsmen.
By 1956, Pataudi, aged 15, was in the First XI, making 354 runs (avg 27.33), with a highest score of 66 not out. In 1957, his tally went up to 851 runs (avg 65.46), with 127 not out his highest. In 1959, when Pataudi took over as captain, there was a twist to the tale that would qualify for a Bollywood Potboiler.
40-years after Douglas Jardine created his school record that no one thought would be bettered, Tiger made 1068 runs at an average of 71.20 (a record would remain in his name a further 56-years) and ensured that Jardine’s name would never again feature on the Winchester records.
Brought up by a loving father whose career was cut short (at least in the young Tiger’s eyes) in trying to play the gentleman’s game the way it should be played in spirit, being the one who broke Jardine’s long standing record must have been particularly sweet revenge for young Tiger.
As his wife Sharmila was to ruminate after his passing: “He would get very annoyed if we ever made the mistake of speculating about what his batting average might have been had the accident not happened. However, I can’t help feeling that breaking all of Jardine’s batting records at Winchester, while still a schoolboy, must have been a colossal high for him, especially because his father, Pataudi Senior, had a much-reported dispute with Jardine over the ethics of bodyline bowling.”
One Nawab had lost the battle refusing to lower himself to the levels his captain demanded, the other had ensured that he won the war exacting sweet revenge with the ultimate weapon that had linked the three men – the Cricket bat.