Mumbai: Former left-arm spinner and handy lower order batsman Bapu Nadkarni said that former India skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who died due to a lung infection in Delhi on Thursday, was "a much misunderstood man" during his playing days because of his aloofness.
"He was a much misunderstood man. His handicap was he did not know many players in the team as he had come from England (where he was an Oxford Blue). He was a loner, but he was a good man," said Nadkarni, who was among the seniors whom Pataudi had captained.
Pataudi was pitchforked into captaining the Indian team which had seniors like Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar and Nadkarni in it, when tour skipper Nari Contractor suffered a near-fatal skull injury in the early part of the disastrous series in the West Indies in 1962.
Contractor was felled by a nasty ball from Charlie Griffith in the game against Barbados at the Kensington Oval and battled for his life as the 21-year-old Pataudi took over the team's reins.
The team was drubbed 5-0, two of them by an innings, by the mighty West Indies side led by Frank Worrell.
Nadkarni said what amazes him even now is how Pataudi, whose father Iftekhar Ali also captained India on the 1946 tour of England, a country he earlier represented in Tests against Australia, could play cricket at the highest level so well even with the sort of physical handicaps he had.
"In those days international cricket was of a very high level and what amazes me is how he could carry on with three handicaps - he had one eye (the other having been lost in a car accident in England), one effective shoulder and one effective thigh - and play so well," said Nadkarni.
"I still remember some of his fine innings, the 80-plus he made at Melbourne on the 1968 tour against Australian fast bowler Graham McEnzie, the knock (103) he made on a turning track at Chepauk (Chennai) against England (led by Ted Dexter) before the West Indies tour and the double hundred (203 not out) he made at Delhi against MCC (led by Mike Smith) in 1964," recalled Nadkarni.
Asked about Pataudi as a captain, Nadkarni said he was the first captain to instill a belief among the Indian players that foreign teams could be beaten.
"That was the legacy he left behind," remarked Nadkarni about Pataudi, who led the team to its first overseas Test series victory in 1968 in New Zealand.