Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi: Batsman known for his elegance and courage who became the youngest Test captain and led India 40 times


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The Independent Online

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was a stylish batsman, a fine fielder and a courageous captain.

In spite of losing an eye in a car accident in England in 1961, he played in 46 Test matches for India He led his country in 40 of those.

Pataudi made his debut against England in Delhi in 1961-62 and scored his maiden century – 113 – in the third Test in Chennai. Then during the 1964 England tour of India, he made a career-best 203 not out in Delhi. In 1962, he became the youngest Test captain at 21, leading out India in the fourth Test, in Barbados. But it was the 1967 tour of England that established him as a batsman of rare class and style. In the first Test at Headingley he made 64 and 148 as India scored 510 after following on.

The following year he captained India in Australia, where he was hailed for his courage after a superb batting performance with one good eye and on one good leg. He hit 75 and 85 in Melbourne; the Aussie critics hailed his innings as classics; Pataudi attacked the fiery Aussie pace bowlers effortlessly even with his footwork affected by a hamstring injury.

In the years that followed, Pataudi displayed aggression combined with agility and grace. There were times when his stroke play reached a level of exquisite beauty rarely matched by anyone of his generation. In all, he scored 2,793 runs at an average of 34.91. He also played in 310 first class matches and made 15,425 runs with an average of 33.67, hitting 33 centuries and 75 half-centuries. As a captain he instilled in his team a belief that winning was always possible. He always approached the game with a steady positive attitude that enabled his teams to fight back.

Born in 1941 in Bhopal, India, into a cricketing family (his father, Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, played for England in the 1932-33 Ashes series then led India against England in 1946), cricket was always in the young Pataudi's blood. In his cricketing years he was often referred as the Nawab – viceroy – of Pataudi, a small state in Punjab during the British Raj.

"Tiger" Pataudi, as he was nicknamed, was educated at Lockers Park Prep School in Hertfordshire, Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford. His batting skills were apparent from the start and he broke many long-standing school records.

At the age of 16, Pataudi made his Sussex debut in August 1957. He showed his precocious talent in the County Championship match against Yorkshire in the 1959 season when he faced those seasoned and unforgiving Test bowlers, Fred Trueman and Ray Illingworth. In an exciting climax, Sussex chased down 218 with the help of Pataudi, who made his side's highest score, 55. In all he played 137 matches for Sussex.

In 1961 Pataudi captained Oxford, and soon his dexterity as batsman and leader was apparent. That summer he scored three centuries as he led Oxford to three consecutive first class victories. In 1964-65 when Australia visited India, Pataudi played a leading role in the second Test at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay, as it was then called. Chasing 254 for victory India slumped to 122 for 6, and it was Pataudi's 53 that took India to their first ever win over Australia.

In 1968 he led India to their first overseas Test series win, 3-1 against New Zealand. But like every great batsman he went through bad patches: he lost the captaincy to Ajit Wadekar for the 1970-71 tour of the West Indies, but returned to lead his country and signed off in style in 1974-75, winning two Tests against Clive Lloyd's mighty West Indies.

Pataudi's natural ability was always reflected in the way he batted and the way he conducted himself as a captain; it was he who nurtured the all-time great quartet of spinners: Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrashekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. His batting showed glimpses of a romance refined from his experiences in the youthful years spent in England. In the words of Neville Cardus, in his batting "there was suppleness and lithe grace which concealed power, as silkiness of skin conceals the voracity of strength in a beautiful animal of the jungle."

In 1968, he was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year. After his playing days, he was India's team manager in 1974-75; later, he was match referee for two Ashes Tests of 1993. The MCC, commemorating the 75th anniversary of India's Test debut, commissioned the Pataudi Trophy for the series between India and England last July.

Talking about the recent trends in cricket, Pataudi said: "There's no harm in youngsters getting lured to the big money that cricket has to offer. However, they should not forget why they're there. It is because of cricket alone, and that they should respect."

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, born Bhopal, India 5 January 1941; married 1969 Sharmila Tagore (one son, two daughters); died Delhi 22 September 2011.