Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who passed away on September 22 aged 70, was one of India’s most charismatic cricketers of all time.
Leading India barely at the age of 21, he remains India’s youngest ever as well as one of the greatest ever to captain India. He led India in 40 Tests out of 46 he played for the country. Though under him India were able to register only 9 wins, he was India’s first captain who instilled a feeling of self-belief into the team.
He was also instrumental in leading India to a famous victory in New Zealand in 1967, which remained a jinx for Indian team until Dhoni’s team broke it two years back.
It was incidentally also India’s first ever Test series victory outside India.
A flamboyant batsman, an electrifying fielder, a motivational leader of men, Pataudi made his Test debut in 1961 against England in Delhi, a place where he breathed his last. He made his debut just four months after a horrible car accident that completely damaged his right eye’s vision.
What could he have achieved had he not lost his vision is a subject of debate. But there is hardly any doubt that he could have made some more runs if his eyesight had not been hampered.
His records as a batsman may not look extraordinary with an average of just over 34. He is not among the best batsmen India has produced. But he is certainly the most brilliant and courageous captain India has ever had.
When he took over the reins of Indian cricket at a young age, Indian cricket was in doldrums. India had a dozen of captains in the preceding decade and a half. And in came the charismatic Tiger Pataudi, who gave Indian cricket much-needed stability in the mid-sixties.
Before his entry, India cricket was a dull, drab affair. He was the first man to make it exciting and challenging.
It was Pataudi who first realized that India could be a potent force if they utilize their strength, spin, properly. Under him India started playing with three spinners, a strategy which was later adopted by Ajit Wadekar to win back-to-back series in West Indies and England in 1971.
His 9-win record as captain may not make him India’s greatest ever skipper statistically. But he will be remembered for making Indian cricket team a force to reckon with and putting it on par with other great teams. In that sense, he can be called as the man who laid the foundation-stone of modern Team India which has been successfully led by Kapil Dev, Sourav Ganguly and now MS Dhoni.