Cricket is a religion in India and it has a really strong relationship with the people of this country. But the real question is how did this game of cricket got settle so much in the hearts of the people that today every person lives that game and not just play it. Many big faces came in and went out of Indian cricket, but there was one person who taught the Indian team to win abroad. He showed the team how strong they actually are. We are talking about none other than the late Former Indian captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, who took over the command of the Indian team at the age of 21.
Let us take a look at Pataudi’s larger than life persona and what drove him to make the Indian team, one of the best sides in the world.
Despite injuring his right eye in a car accident, Tiger Pataudi made his Test debut against England, in the same year. But, even with a severely impaired right eye, he came out to bat and hooked the fastest bowlers England had. His first tour Test innings read 13,64, 32 and 103. His contribution with the bat made India win their first series against England.
It was under Pataudi’s leadership, cricketers learned to shed their individual identities and play as a team and do so for the nation. The highlight of Tiger’s captaincy career was India’s series victory in New Zealand in 1968.
Going into the first Test, India had never recorded a single win on the foreign soil, but Pataudi’s men secured an amazing victory over the Kiwis and broke the jinx. Though they lost the second Test match but wins in the first and the third Test ensured India’s maiden Test series triumph abroad. His tactics to play three spinners was considered a masterstroke during that tour.
Pataudi led India in 40 of 46 Tests he represented his country in. His tally of nine wins, 19 losses and 12 draws may not appear extraordinary from today’s standards, but to understand his contribution, one has to realize that we were not a force of nature in the game of cricket before Pataudi’s entry. Prior to Pataudi’s appointment as the captain of Indian Test side, the team had played 79 Tests and won only eight of them.
In the 46 Tests that he played for India, he scored 2783 runs at an average of 34.91. His unbeaten knock of 203 against England was the best batting performance of his career.
The ‘Nawab’ Pataudi inspired generations of youngsters to play their game fearlessly yet fairly. Post-retirement, he briefly served as a match referee and also appeared as an expert on TV channels. Pataudi was given the Arjuna Award in 1964. He was also conferred with Padma Shri award in 1967. If we talk about his personal life, Pataudi married popular Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore, with whom, he has two children - Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan - who are also eminent film personalities.
Pataudi died on 22 September 2011 and the entire cricket fraternity felt the void created by his demise.
He would always be remembered as a quintessential gentleman, who played cricket with the spirit that earned it the nickname of a gentleman’s game.