Come February 20, the first of Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lectures will be delivered by Sunil Gavaskar in Chennai — surely, there could not have been a better candidate to do the honours. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) made the announcement last week in an extremely welcome gesture, though not many are aware of the little subplot behind it.
It’s been exactly one-and-half years since the charismatic former Indian skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi passed away, but then it’s not the delay in instituting the lecture that one is talking about here. There has been what we call a hidden story involving egos, the characterisic high-handed attitude of the BCCI finally culminating in some kind of damage control exercise, which finally saw the announcement of the lecture day.
It all began last November, when days before India’s home Test series against England, Pataudi’s wife Sharmila Tagore had sent a personal email to the BCCI president, Mr N. Srinivasan, asking him to formalise the nomenclature of the series winner’s trophy as the ‘Pataudi Trophy’. It was very much in accordance with a decision taken jointly by the Indian board and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 2007 that any series between these two countries would henceforth be called the Pataudi Trophy — a move to honour the family’s contribution to cricketing relations between India and England and also to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations of their first-ever series in 1932.
The contents of the email, in which Tagore also wanted the BCCI president to follow up on the family’s request to institute a memorial lecture, trickled down to the media — something which surely ruffled the giant-sized egos of the board mandarins (read Mr Srinivasan). After maintaining a studied silence for some time, the board announced it was not possible to agree to the request as the trophy is already named after Anthony D’Mello, the first-ever secretary of the Indian board.
Clearly, it was a snub to the cricketer’s family for in two of the India versus England series since 2007 (the last one being in 2011, when India were wallopped 4-0), Pataudi himself was present in England to hand over the trophy named after him and his father. Incidentally, Pataudi Sr was the only player to have represented both countries in Test cricket — making the family’s position so unique in the cricketing history between the two countries.
Finally, the trophy played for in India last winter was called the Airtel Trophy after its title sponsors, while D’Mello’s name continued to be confined to the pages of history. The Pataudi Memorial Lecture is hence being seen more of a reconciliatory stance on part of the board, while they remain unmoved regarding the name of any future India-England series in India.
However, it’s now time to look forward to what would be the first lecture of its kind hosted by the BCCI and a momentous one for cricket fans with
a sense of history.