Captaincy - Great Leaders
- By Ashok Mankad
I had the privilege of playing under some
outstanding captains, who were excellent readers of
the game and knew its varied nuances inside out.
The captains who impressed me the most in my early
playing days were the Nawab of Pataudi and Chandu
Borde, both for different reasons.
Pataudi was a courageous leader. He gave the
opposition a '50% chance', which means he gave them
an even chance to win. If they missed out, he won!
His field-placing was normal and anything but
defensive. He encouraged his batsmen and bowlers
greatly. He was very approachable and down to
earth. At the same time, he maintained his
distance. Probably his schooling in the UK helped
him analyze the game realistically and made him
Mansoor Ali Khan 'Tiger' Pataudi
I will never forget my first meeting with 'Tiger'
in the mid-1960s. I had been picked to play for a
sponsored side to be led by him. The game was to be
played at Hyderabad. I contacted Mr. Ghulam Ahmed,
former India captain and then Hyderabad Cricket
Association Secretary, on my arrival. He asked me
to come to his office at 5 pm to meet the captain.
Accordingly, I, the 20 year-old reigning captain of
Mumbai University, swaggered into Mr. Ahmed's
office with my collar 'up' at 5 pm sharp. I saw a
man sitting in a corner, smoking a cigarette.
"Young man, meet your captain", Mr. Ahmed stated.
I strode towards him and introduced myself, but he
did not bother to even look at me! It was quite
embarrassing. My ego was shattered, and I was angry
enough to excuse myself and leave. While Mr. Ahmed
responded, Pataudi was still in the smoke shield!
I was prepared to be treated in the same manner
when I reached the ground for practice the
following morning. Imagine my amazement when I felt
a hand on the back of my shoulder. It was Tiger!
He asked me to pad up, and while I was doing so in
total disbelief at the turnaround, he asked me
about some members of the opposing side who were
from Mumbai. We had an interesting and engaging
discussion. He spoke very well, very charmingly,
and showed respect for my opinion (I would like to
think it was genuine!). I was floored! I felt so
motivated that I could have done anything for him!
Another memorable interaction, if one may call it
that, took place during the Mumbai Test against
Australia in 1969-70. It was my first season in
international cricket and I was excited at the
prospect of playing a Test at my home-ground. On
the eve of the game, Tiger informed me that I was
to bat at the pivotal No. 3 position. This came as
a surprise, for I had never batted at that number
before, and here I was, being asked to do so in a
Test match! I guess the skipper had confidence in
I did not do too badly, scoring 74. I returned to
the pavilion, pleased as punch with my innings, and
eager to hear some kind words from the captain. The
others complimented me, but the skipper did not say
anything. However, with the Hyderabad incident at
the back of my mind, I wasn't all that disheartened
with his apparent lack of interest. I was taking my
pads off when, once again, I felt a hand on my
shoulder. I looked around to see the skipper
sitting next to me. He smiled and said' "Young man,
this is the last time you will wear these trousers
again", stood up and and walked off.
The reference was to my 'lucky' pair of shining
white cotton trousers. In his own way, Tiger had
indicated his appreciation of my innings, and at
the same time, expressed his disapproval of my
apparel. The important thing is, he made that
particular statement knowing that I wouldn't
misunderstand him. We had earlier added 146 runs,
and during that long partnership, he hadn't said a
word about the trousers, having probably realized
that I might have been wearing them for a specific
(superstitious) reason. But he did not want me to
err a second time. Truly a remarkable individual!
Chandu Borde's approach to captaincy was somewhat different. He was a shrewd leader who had tremendous faith in his medium-pace bowlers. He was a leader who kept a tight leash on the opposition and never gave anything away. He possessed what we in Mumbai would call the 'Chavi' (key) approach. 'Chavi' in Marathi means 'key'. He would 'key' (encourage) you to such an extent that you ended up believing that you were the best.
I will never forget a Duleep Trophy final in the late 60s against North Zone. We (West Zone) were defending a modest target, and North were cruising at 100-odd for 1. All the frontline West Zone bowlers had bowled their hearts out without success.
Suddenly Borde, who was leading, put his arm around me and said, "Ashok, I know you can win this match. So come, flight the ball and I will post myself at short mid-wicket and catch them there". I could not quite understand what was happening, but I sensed his sincerity. Lo and behold, I proceeded to take six wickets with my off-spin and bowled North Zone out! Three of those victims were caught by Borde at short mid-wicket, exactly as he had planned!
I believe the North Zone players who played in that
match are still trying to figure out what happened.
The turnaround was beyond my wildest imagination,
so just imagine what the opposition must have gone
However, I acquired the best education in captaincy
from my late father, the great Vinoo Mankad. After
returning home from a game, I would discuss the
happenings with him, and he could visualize and
tell me what course the game would have taken. He
was spot-on! He would also suggest a few changes or
alterations that in his opinion could change the
game and he would be dead-right! His judgement was
astounding. It was from him that I learnt quite a
few tricks of the trade. He provided the ideas and
I got the credit!