16 March 1910: Iftikhar Ali Khan, Indian cricket captain, was born

Iftikhar Ali Khan, the 8th Nawab of Pataudi, a member of the English squad during the infamous ‘Bodyline’ series who later captained the Indian cricket team, was born on 16 March 1910 in Pataudi House, Delhi. He is the only cricketer to have played Test cricket for both England and India. 

Pataudi was a small princely state in what is present-day Haryana. Iftikhar’s father, Muhammad Ibrahim Ali Khan, was the 7th Nawab of Pataudi. His mother (Ibrahim’s wife) was Shahar Bano Begum.

Iftikhar was related to several prominent historical figures including Mirza Ghalib, one of the greatest poets of the subcontinent, and Liaqat Ali Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan. After Ibrahim’s death in 1917, Iftikhar became the new Nawab though his formal takeover of the state happened in 1931.

He studied at Chiefs’ College,Lahore, and Balliol College, Oxford.

Two English cricketers, M.G. Slater and Frank Woolley, coached the young Iftikhar in the finer aspects of the game. In 1927 he went to Oxford. He showed his class by scoring over 1300 runs for Oxford, averaging 93, in the 1931 season. His 238 runs was a University match record that held till 2005.

In 1932 he was selected in the Worcestershire team. He made it to England’s national squad the same year and was declared Wisden Cricketer of the Year.

In the ‘Bodyline’ Ashes series of 1932–33, arguably the most controversial series in the history of cricket, Iftikhar smashed a century in his debut in Sydney.

To check the batting wizardry of Australia’s legendary Don Bradman, the England captain Douglas Jardine had devised an intimidating and potentially dangerous tactic — later dubbed ‘bodyline’ — in which the ball would be hurled towards the leg stump and come into the batsman’s body. Iftikhar expressed his disapproval over Jardine’s methods. The English captain was not amused. After the second test in Melbourne, Iftikhar was dropped from the squad.

In the 1933 First Class cricket season he hit two double-tons, amassing 1749 runs at an average of 49. In 1934 though he played fewer games due to health reasons, he averaged 91.33. In the same year he played his last Test for England.

In subsequent years his appearances for Worcestershire were very few, but they left a mark. In 1936 he was appointed captain for India’s England tour but he turned down the captaincy citing poor health.

He eventually captained India ten years later on the tour to England.  

In 1948 the princely state of Pataudi became a part of independent India. Iftikhar worked with the Indian Foreign Office after independence. He died on 5 January 1952 after suffering a heart attack while playing Polo.

Iftikhar’s son, Mansoor Ali Khan, popularly known as ‘Tiger’ Pataudi, also captained the Indian cricket team later and is widely regarded as one of India’s finest captains.  

After Mansoor Ali Khan’s death in 2011, Vijay Lokapally wrote in Frontline magazine, “Iftikhar, who was a hockey Olympian too, ruled Pataudi, a small state in Punjab and now part of Jhajjar in Haryana, and Tiger was the ninth and last Nawab of the state. Tiger missed the guidance of his father, who died on the day the son was celebrating his 11th birthday. In Tiger’s Tale, a racy autobiography, Pataudi remembered his father as a ‘man of very strong principles. He was used to having his own way.’ Pataudi Senior was known for his ability to carry the team as a unit. Tiger followed in his father’s footsteps.”

Also on this day:

1901 — Potti Sreeramulu, Indian nationalist who later undertook a fatal fast for the formation of Andhra, was born 

1940 — Sreekumaran Thampi, Malayalam lyricist and filmmaker, was born 

1978 — Ayesha Dharker, British-Indian actress, was born 

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