To have almost 0 vision in one eye and taking over the reins of Team India at the age of 21 tells you what a genius he was.
Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was the most charismatic cricketer of his generation. The Nawab of Pataudi captained India in 40 of the 46 Tests he played in and won 9 of them. In today’s context, it might appear modest. But Pataudi’s swagger, his batting and fielding and sheer presence on field made him stand out.
Not just that, his marriage to Sharmila Tagore remains the biggest union of glamour and sports till now.
Quite clearly, he was the Nawab born to rule.
What exactly happened on July 1, 1961?
Six months before his test debut, Pataudi, the captain of Oxford was playing against Sussex at Hove. After the day’s play, the team went out for dinner. While returning Pataudi decided to hop into the car instead of walking 300 yards.
How Indian cricket wished he did not go for the 300-yard drive!
His right eye was pierced by a shard of glass from the windscreen. But even with a severely impaired right eye, he went on to hook the fastest of bowlers.
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But the Nawab of Pataudi still had the eye of the tiger.
He was not afraid to step out and play lofted shots against spinners. Pataudi played 46 Tests, scoring 2,793 runs with six Test centuries at an average of 34.91, while playing with one good eye.
His records make me wonder what he might have achieved with two good eyes.
Yet Tiger never made excuses, or indulged in self pity.
His extraordinary determination and success in overcoming the injury made him the captain of the Indian team at 21 years and 77 days, thus becoming the youngest captain in the history of Test cricket.
As captain he led India to nine victories and suffered 19 defeats, with 19 matches drawn. He changed Indian cricket and pioneered the ‘modern’ era. Before him, India used to play ‘bat and ball’. The batsman batted and the bowlers bowled. A brilliant fielder himself, he transformed the team’s thinking. India started playing to ‘own strength’ by using multi-pronged ‘spin’ attack.
Above all, Tiger made us believe that India could indeed win matches and series abroad.
Like our national animal, Tiger will always live in our heart.