He undoubtedly was one of the most charismatic cricketers India has ever produced. It was much before Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni donned the blue jersey that India learnt how to fight in tough conditions and emerge victorious. And it was all taught by Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, the blue-blooded India captain. Here we pay our tribute to the legend and present Top Tiger moments.
In 1961, at an age of 20, a car accident at Hove permanently damaged vision in his right eye. "It took me a long time to realize I had virtually lost the use of one eye, but even then, never for an instant did I consider I might not be able to play cricket again," Pataudi had said. However, it was said to an end of his career. But three of four weeks after his operation, Pataudi was soon at the nets learning to play cricket with one eye.
"My batting needed sorting out. For long hours George Cod, the Sussex coach, bowled to me in the net while I worked out what I could still do and what I could not. At first I couldn't pick the length of the bowling at all. Then I reached a sort of compromise, but I suppose it took five years before I could claim to be completely on terms with my handicap," Pataudi had said in his autobiography Tiger's tale.
Less than a year after his accident, Tiger was named India's captain after Nari Contractor was out of a game due to a head injury he sustained in the West Indies. He held the record of being the youngest captain till Zimbabwe's Tatenda Taibu took it from him in 2004. But he remained India's youngest captain. (Image courtesy: Mid-Day.com)
It was under his captaincy that India won their first ever overseas Test series. During India's tour to New Zealand in 1968, Pataudi led the team to a 3-1 win. India won the first Test at Dunedin and the hosts leveled it at Christchurch. India bounced back in to the series and clinched the next two Tests at Wellington and Auckland. Pataudi made 221 runs in the series. "Tiger gambled like a crazy punter. His daredevil tactics paid off. The crowd worshipped him. Tiger got the best out of everybody, and we won," wrote legendary off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna in his biography.
It was the first love story that brought cricket and films closer to each other. This romance between a batsman and a beauty was nothing lesser than a fairytale. They broke the barriers of religion, class and other social norms to script the "happily-ever-after" story. Nawab Pataudi later said he had to bat on for four long years to finally marry Sharmila. It is also said that he gifted a refrigerator to woo her. Sharmila, on her part, revealed she "was attracted to Tiger for his sense of humour" and said "for us, the world ended and began with each other".
Coming from a royal family, Mansur became the ninth Nawab of Pataudi at an early age as his father Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi died on his 11th birthday in 1952. Pataudi Sr. was one the very few cricketers who played for India and England. Mansur's elevation as captain of the Indian cricket team meant it was a father-son feat without a parallel.
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