Hailed as one of India’s greatest ever skipper, Pataudi defied reality. He lead India in all but six of the forty-six Tests he played and notched up nine Test victories, a winning ratio of meagre 22.5% against nineteen losses and twelve draws. These numbers reflect the unstable state of Indian Cricket at a point when India was struggling to catch-up with cricket-playing nations of the front rank.
He wasn’t a great captain statistically, no doubt.
But what he did, laid the foundations of an enduring team devoid of any barriers. His prime game- changing contribution to Indian Cricket was integrating and contemporizing it at the highest level. He didn’t make the players feel if they belonged to Mumbai, Bangalore or Delhi. Rather, together as a unit, marshalled them to be the best in their domains and gave them the confidence to beat any team not only in the subcontinent but overseas too.
Tiger led the self-respect movement, inspiring them and gave them the ability to see them at par with their colonial counterparts. He thrashed that colonial hangover and gave the balls to the timid Indian squad to look right into the eyes of the world and allowed their game to do the talking.
Throughout the 60s, Tiger led India under serious constraint, given the limited resources at his command. The outstanding feature of his team-building was forging, sharpening and getting the best out of the world’s best spin attack. Without Tiger’s intelligence, there would have never been a combination of Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Venkatraghavan and Prasanna.
India and pace never go hand and hand and Pataudi was very well aware of this. Instead, he decided to carve his own niche and focused on working towards the Indian strength.
There was not a single instance where in a team was being built around a left-arm orthodox spinner, a maverick right arm leg-spinner and two world-class off-spinners. The greatest trick he played was to rotate them in tandem, bought fielders closer, gave a bowler all the liberty in the world and triggered panic in the mind of the batsmen. Not only did the bowlers rose to the occasion but the close-in fielders ignited spark through their fielding at a time, when India was considered to be one of the worst fielding units.
They didn’t win enough but told the world on the face that boss, team India has arrived to the party. Do not take us lightly anymore. He instilled the attitude of mutual respect and added a refreshing vibe to the Indian Cricket.
He believed in Cricket as a game of fierce opposition, fair play and sportsmanship. In a way, he was the Shammi Kapoor of Indian Cricket. If Shammi redefined Bollywood in 60s by wooing his heroines with passionate ardour, Pataudi changed the face of Indian Cricket by becoming the first cricketing superstar in India whose appeal involved a mix of brilliance, charm and charisma.
Apart from being an exceptional leader, he was a maestro in hitting cover drives and even defended runs at the same position while fielding. His reflexes were lightening quick!
Right through his school career at Winchester, England he had a reputation of a class Cricketer which paved way eventually when he went on to become the only Indian till day to captain either Oxford or Cambridge. That year he stared in a blaze of glory and would have broken all records for University Cricket, but for the most unfortunate injury which he suffered in a serious car crash and lost his right eye. Later, in spite of the injury, Mansur Ali Khan started his career in India in the year 1961 where he represented Delhi against North Punjab and never looked back.
His great performances post the accident is a testimony to his sheer fighting abilities, self –belief and passion for the game. Any other Cricketer would have given up when he stood up for his nation and delivered with pride. He just believed in playing fearless Cricket. Discipline was one thing that kept him going. The trait was evident at the parties and that too in Delhi, where procrastination is treated to be some sort of divine light.
Other players and captains have done better than him no doubt. For instance, Dhoni has more trophies than him, Kohli strikes better and Ganguly fared more aggressively but Pataudi belongs to an altogether different league, beyond numbers and comparisons. Numbers do not provide justice to the royalty of the prince. In his case, it was all about triumphing odds and becoming an icon by inspiring the helpless Indian squad to become invincible in their game. He evolved Indian Cricket.
Thank you Tiger Pataudi.
References – Pataudi, Nawab of Cricket.