Stylish former Test batsman Gundappa R Vishwanath on Thursday credited Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi for his cricketing career during the late '60s and the '70s.
"It was a privilege and honour to have played under Pataudi those years. I was fortunate to be inspired and guided by him. I owe my cricketing career to him," Vishwanath told IANS from Shimoga, about 270 km from here.
Recalling his long association with the former Test captain, Vishwanath said Tiger had an uncanny ability to spot talent and was instrumental in his selection to play against Australia in the 1969 home series.
"Though Tiger was from North and I was from South and played against each other in Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy tournaments many times, he insisted on my inclusion in the Test team to play against Australia," Vishwanath said.
Vishwanth struck a brilliant century on debut in second innings after getting out for a duck in the first innings in the Kanpur Test against Australia in the 1969 series.
"It's all over for me. I can't imagine that our Tiger is no more. It's a saddest day in my life. It was because of him that I played for India much earlier than I would have otherwise. I learnt a lot from him. He was a rare captain and a great human being," an emotional Vishwanath recounted.
Reminiscing Tiger's valuable tips to teammates and upcoming players, the right-hand batsman said Pataudi was a great inspiration and guiding force for a generation of cricketers in those days when Tests were the only form of the game.
"I was surprised that he had a special liking towards me though I was shy and reserved. He used to exhort me to be positive and play by instinct. I owe my debut century also to him as I was disheartened by getting out for zero in the first innings during the Kanpur Test," Vishwanath said.
Former offie Erapalli Prasanna, who played a number of Tests under Tiger's captaincy, said he could not believe that Pataudi was no more.
"Pataudi was a friend, philosopher and guide to me. I met him for the first time in Hyderabad after I was selected to play for the President's XI," he said.
Recounting his cricketing days when he played with Pataudi in a number of home and away series along with BS Chandrashekar, Bishen Singh Bedi and S. Venkataraman, who constituted the great Indian spin quartet during the sixties and seventies, Prasanna said Tiger had changed the complexion of Indian cricket.
"Indian cricket was fortunate to have a great player like Tiger who laid the foundation for the growth of the game and made it popular," Prasanna said.
Incidentally, Prasanna met Tiger in London recently when the Nawab of Indian cricket gave away the Pataudi Trophy to England, which beat India 4-0 in the Test series.
Pataudi died in Delhi on Thursday after battling a lung infection for about a month. He was 70.