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Pataudi, thinking cricketer and inspiring leader

The first Indian captain to win a Test overseas was a pioneer in pushing Indian players to improve their fielding and think about their game.

delhi Updated: Sep 22, 2011 22:23 IST
Anantha Narayanan

Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the cricketer who died in Delhi at 70, was an inspirational captain and the architect of the rise of India's famed spin quartet.

A classy batsman with a repertoire of unorthox shots that were way ahead of times, Pataudi was fast-tracked into captaincy on the 1962 tour of West Indies after Nari Contractor suffered a serious injury after he was struck on his head by a Charlie Griffith bouncer in a tour game.

Son of Iftikhar Ali Khan, who played for England and then for India, the man fondly nicknamed "Tiger" for his natural athleticism fielding in cover, was a pioneer in pushing Indian players to raise their fielding standards.

Regarded among the finest captains India ever had, Pataudi is said to have been influenced a lot by the former India batsman, the late ML Jaisimha, who himself is considered the finest captain the national team never had.

Pataudi's India cricket career was almost wrecked before it began when he lost vision in his right eye following a car accident. However, he learnt to overcome the handicap, scoring six Test centuries in aggregating 2,793 runs at an average of 34.91. Pataudi, who also played for Delhi, Hyderabad, Oxford University and Sussex aggregated 15,425 first-class runs with 33 first-class hundreds.

Pataudi, who is still the second youngest Test captain ever - Zimbabwe's Tatenda Taibu became the youngest ever aged 20 years - led in 40 of the 46 Tests he played in a career spanning from 1962 to 1975.

He goaded Indian players to think positive and his all-out support for spin, to cash in on India's strongest suit, led to the rise of the famed spin quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna and S Venkataraghavan in the late 60s and early 70s. The catching of Eknath Solkar at forward shortleg played a huge role in their success.

Pataudi led India to victory in nine Tests, starting with the first-ever overseas success, on the 1967 New Zealand tour. He is credited with ending groups within the team and bringing the players together.

Players, who had to contend with meagre daily allowance, tried to push the Test into the final day to get the full amount. Pataudi offered them more money than what they would get as daily allowance if they won the Test, even if it was well within the distance.

Said to be a good chess player as well, was articulate and never shied away from expressing his views on the team or players, but always with tremendous dignity.