Indian Cricket Loses Its Most Eminent Captain
Tiger Pataudi, the captain of captains, who put Indian cricket on the map, died on September 22, 2211 at the age of 70. He was the bridge between the old and new worlds of Indian cricket, the one who instilled self- belief in a team that would one day become the world beaters. He was the one who transformed a passive, sleepy, striving team into an aggressive, hungry outfit that would scale newer heights in every successive generation after him.
“A bad captain can make a great team look ordinary,” Mansur Ali Khan had said—Mansur, the name he wanted people to call him. Born a prince, the 9th and the last Nawab of Pataudi, he was called Tiger Pataudi by his avid fans, for the sheer glamour and the aristocratic air that was only natural to him. What Pataudi did not say was, ‘a great captain can make an ordinary team look good,’ but that is exactly what he did to the Indian cricket team. I vividly remember the day he scored 203 n.o. against England at Feroze Shah Kotla ground in 1964. With a few close friends, I had ditched school that day to listen to the commentary of the game. When Pataudi scored the coveted double century, the nation went ecstatic, for in those days the team India would struggle to put up an aggregate of 200, most of the times.
In many ways MAK was larger than life. Soon after starting his career, at the age of 20, he had a car accident that permanently damaged vision in his right eye. Yet, he went to play for India, and at the age 21, in Barbados in 1962, Pataudi was entrusted with the leadership of the team, when captain Nari Contractor was taken to hospital after being hit on the head by a Charlie Griffith stinger. Pataudi became the youngest Test captain, a record that stood until 2004.
If anyone wanted to find out how difficult batting with one eye is, the person had only to ask Colin Milburn, the dashing England player, whose career ended when he lost vision in his left eye. Pataudi went on to play 46 test matches; an imposing number of matches considering the amount of cricket that were played in his time. In his own words, he was not the best performer of his team so his job was to get the best from others, such as Gundappa Viswanath, arguably one of the best batsman India has ever produced.
Therefore, it was not surprising for Viswanath to come with this tribute on MAK’s death: “I can't really forget the way he brought me up. He was my first captain under whom I played. Whatever career I had, it stands on him.” Pataudi’s achievement cannot be measured in his success as a captain, nor in his scoring runs, to understand the depth of his contribution, must one know the circumstances that Indian cricket was passing through when he came in steer them. Let us evaluate MAK through the writing of Sambit Pal:Continued on the next page