NEW DELHI: Mahendra Singh Dhoni might be the most successful captain of India but the Nawab of Pataudi Mansur Ali Khan remains India’s greatest captain ever. The legendary cricket’s Nawab passed away on Thursday after battling a lung infection.
The 70-year-old cricketer known as ‘Tiger’ in the cricket fraternity, was suffering from interstitial lung disease, a condition in which the passage of oxygen to the two lungs is less than normal.
Nawab became the captain of Indian cricket team at the tender age of 21, months after being involved in a car accident that impaired the sight in his right eye forever. Nawab led India in 40 of 46 Tests he played in between 1961 and 1975. Nawab was given the leadership of the Test team in his fourth Test match in Barbados in 1962, because the regular captain Nari Contractor was in hospital after getting hit on the head by Charlie Griffith.
Nawab won just 9 of them, but he brought Indian cricket out of the era of defeatism and instilled in his fellow cricketers a belief that India could win international matches. India tasted their first overseas Test victory against New Zealand in 1967 under him.
But there was more to Pataudi. His Royal air and the head held high flair and acumen inspired a generation of cricketers. He brought his charisma to the game and his generosity enabled him to shape a united team the country could be proud of. Those were the days when BCCI didn’t use to be world’s richest cricket board and Pataudi used to finance the game of cricket. And he brought the first Bollywood flavour to the Gentleman’s game by marrying none other than Sharmila Tagore, one of the most beautiful and sought after actresses of her time.
May be Mansoor lost on the home front to his actress wife since none of his children became a sportsperson, but Nawab remained the cricketer for his entire life. His son Saif Ali Khan and two daughters Soha and Saba Ali Khan, all entered the film industry. But why blame Nawab for it. If Nawab would have born 4 decades later, he too would have chosen acting over cricket. Nawab heartily acknowledge that. When asked for an autograph, he would joke, “You should be chasing Saif, not me!” Even at 70, Tiger remained the charming man that he always was.
Nawab scored 2793 runs in 46 Tests at an average of 35 and made six centuries, the biggest of which was an unbeaten 203 against England in Delhi in 1964. He hit six centuries of which he rated the 103 against England at Madras, 148 against England at Headingley in 1967 and 128 not out against Australia at Madras in 1964 as special.
However, many experts rate his 75 against Australia in Melbourne in 1967-68 as his finest since he played that knock with an injured leg. Pataudi retired in 1975 after West Indies’ tour of India.
After retirement, Pataudi served as a match referee between 1993 and 1996, officiating in two Tests and ten ODIs.
Pataudi was the ninth and last Nawab of Pataudi until 1971, when the Indian government abolished royal entitlements through the 26th Amendment to the Constitution.
He was also the editor of Sportsworld, the now defunct cricket magazine, and a television commentator in the 1980s but gradually withdrew from an active role, though he remained a strong voice in Indian cricket.
Since 2007, bilateral Test series between India and England have been contested for the Pataudi Trophy, named after his family for their contribution to Anglo-Indian cricket.
Cricket came to Tiger as a legacy. His father, Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, represented both India and England. Pataudi Senior played for England in the 1932-33 Ashes series but refused, as a matter of principle, to be part of the Bodyline tactics. He led India to England in 1946. He died six years later at 41 in a polo accident. Mansur Ali Khan was just 11.
BCCI chief N. Srinivasan paid rich tributes to the legendary sportsman. “He was an exemplary individual, who guided Indian cricket to unprecedented heights, as batsman, fielder and captain,” Srinivasan said in a statement.
“He revolutionised fielding standards in the Indian team and across the country. In an age wherein a draw was considered as good as a win, Tiger Pataudi encouraged his players to go flat out for victory.”
Sachin Tendulkar said Pataudi’s death was a “terrible loss to world cricket.”
Former India captain and spin great Bishan Bedi, who began his career under Pataudi, said there will “never be another cricketer like him.”
“Tiger was a royal in every sense,” Bedi added. “A man of stature, both on and off the field. Superb batsman, brilliant fielder and a great captain.”
(With PTI inputs)