There have been princes, but few as princely as Tiger Pataudi    Getty Images
There have been princes, but few as princely as Tiger Pataudi Getty Images

Mansur Ali Khan, Nawab of Pataudi, or Tiger , as he was known to everyone, was born January 5, 1941. Flamboyant with the willow, dynamic on the field, and a prince on and off the field, Pataudi remains one of the most colourful cricketers of Indian cricket. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a royal enigma.

Being of royal birth is one thing. Being a prince on the field is another matter. For eight years in the 1960s there were no dispute regarding who the Indian captain was. Even when India were whitewashed in Australia and England, the thought of Tiger Pataudi being replaced as captain never crossed the mind.

On field, Pataudi lived up to his nickname. Watching an Indian XI of that era (mind you, there were men like ML Jaisimha and Salim Durani in the side) one need not have asked twice who the captain was. Pataudi s swagger, his batting and fielding, and sheer presence on field made him stand out. In fact, his success despite his handicap inspired the next generation to such an extent that children often batted with one eye closed in gully cricket.

Neville Cardus wrote: 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. The generation that saw Pataudi on the field would agree, almost unanimously. Perhaps, for once, Cardus did not exaggerate.

Did it have to do with his royal background? It might have, but it was not necessarily true. Though Vizzy led India, he was certainly not accepted as captain. Men from royal families like Yuvraj of Patiala (a dazzling batsman himself who got lost somewhere in the murk of Indian cricket politics of the 1930s) or Hanumant Singh never led India; Yajurvindra Singh did not lead India either.

Vijay Lokapally provides an accurate picture of Pataudi s stature in The Hindu. He mentions how a 56-year old Anshuman Gaekwad and a 53-year old Sandeep Patil stamped out cigarettes if they saw Pataudi. The ultimate incident, of course, involves Rajinder Goel. During a function, Goel was seated in the last row of a big theatre next to Lokapally when Pataudi stood up to speak. Goel stood up instinctively, which surprised Lokapally.

Lokapally: Goel-saab, remain seated! Tiger can’t even see you!

Goel: No. He is my captain.

Mohinder Amarnath was in awe as well. He told Lokapally: His presence made lot of difference in the dressing room. Such players come rare. In the 60s and early 70s, we only talked of Pataudi. We wanted to bat like him, field like him, and lead like him. We wanted to be Pataudi.

Sunil Gavaskar, on the other hand, had no idea how to approach him. A teenaged Gavaskar was coaxed by his teammates to find out how their captain Pataudi (this was the Moin-ud-Dowlah Trophy) was supposed to be addressed. Gavaskar took the bait: How do we address you? Nawab-saab, Pat, Tiger, captain, skipper? It was another thing that all the response he got was a nonchalant look.


Pataudi was adventurous and dynamic with the bat, gifted with the rare ability to take on any bowling attack. He was unorthodox to the extent that the shrewdest of captains found it difficult to set a field against him. He often made a mockery of the bowling, especially with his unconventional strokeplay, several of which were airborne. He also had an outstanding cover-drive one that Vijay Merchant compared to Wally Hammond s.

One must remember that all this was achieved with one good eye. Pataudi was a batsman of phenomenal talent. He found it less difficult to bat when he covered his right eye with his cap: that was the only adjustment he made. Thus, it seems almost incredible when Tony Lewis wrote of him: It was the speed with which he spotted a ball to be hit hard, and the sudden variety of scoring strokes that tumbled out, that made him an exceptional talent.

Pataudi s numbers do not make outstanding reading. Even in the 1960s, a career tally of 2,793 runs at 34.91 with 6 hundreds seem rather ordinary. Over half these runs came in the phase from 1964 to 1967 at a commendable 45.83. During this period only two other Indians (Chandu Borde and Dilip Sardesai) scored more than a thousand runs; and nobody averaged as much. In international cricket, only Ken Barrington, Bobby Simpson, Bill Lawry, and Graeme Pollock had more hundreds in this phase.

M R Ave 100s
1961 63





1964 67





1968 75









A closer look at the numbers suggest that Pataudi s performances against Australia and England were quite impressive. His bogey, however, were the West Indies.




R Ave R Ave R Ave














New Zealand







West Indies














It must, however, be remembered that he made a comeback (as captain) against West Indies in the home series of 1974-75. Though India clawed back after trailing 0-2 before losing the series 2-3, the series was a disaster for Pataudi the batsman. He scored a mere 94 runs at 13.42, and did not reach double-figures in his last 5 innings.

Apart from his numbers, Pataudi had his idiosyncrasies as well. For example, he never carried a bat of his own. Even if he did, he famously took the bat nearest the dressing-room door as he walked out to bat. On the 1967-68 tour of Australia, a bemused Ian Chappell asked him why he used a different bat every time.

The response was one of its kind: I only brought a pair of boots, socks, creams and shirt on tour, so I used someone else s gear. Each time we went out after a break I just picked up the bat nearest the door. This included the famous MCG Test, where he scored 75 and 85 but India lost by an innings.

How special were those two innings? Graham McKenzie had scythed through the Indian top-order in the first morning. By the time the score had reached 25, India had lost five men (all to McKenzie), and Surti was back in the hut with an injury. It was drizzling. The light was not very good. And Pataudi had declared himself unfit for the Test, only to announce availability on the morning of the Test. His hamstring had still not recovered.

Pataudi counterattacked. He lost Venkataraman Subramanya cheaply, but that did not deter him. Prasanna hung around, as did Surti on his return (folklore has it that Pataudi greeted Surti at the middle with a wink). Pataudi kept the onslaught going, keeping the vicious McKenzie at bay at the same time. The strokeplay was so spectacular that Lindsay Hassett compared Pataudi to Don Bradman at his prime.

Jack Fingleton wrote in Indian Cricket: Pataudi entered at the crisis, and looked a tragic figure as he walked in, dragging his injured leg. But, immediately, there came into the Indian innings character, intelligence and respectability. He showed first of all that he had a cool head and was not going to toss his wicket away. Pataudi played a glorious innings, taking the Australian bowling by the scruff.

He was compared to Long John Silver in match reports (after all, it was played with one eye and one leg!). Cyclops couldn t have done a better job, wrote Ian Chappell in his article A Worldly-Wise Larrikin, an essay compiled by Suresh Menon for Pataudi, Nawab of Cricket. And Robert Menzies commented: With one good eye and one good leg, if you could hit our fast bowlers all over the place, I shudder to think what [he] could have done with two good eyes and two good legs! He added 85 for good measure in the second innings.

What if the injury had not happened?

This is one of the most-asked questions when it comes to Pataudi. While 35 is an ordinary average, one can account for that when he brings up the injured eye. But how much impact did the eye really have? That fateful injury happened on July 1, 1961 (we will come to it in details). Less than a month before the accident Pataudi had scored 65, 65, 55, and 108 in consecutive innings. He did not play another match in the season, and finished with 1,216 runs at 55.27. The varsity record of 1,307 at this point was held by his father.

He came back four months after the incident, and immediately scored 51, albeit against Jammu & Kashmir. Drafted in to play MCC for Indian Board President s XI, Pataudi clobbered Barry Knight, Tony Lock, and Ted Dexter to reach 70. In less than a month he made his Test debut in the third Test at Kotla; he scored 64 and 32 in the fourth at Eden Gardens; and 103 at Chepauk to finish things off. With victories in the last two Tests, India claimed their first series win.

What was this 103 like? Let us take Ray Robinson s version from a 1975 edition of People: His strokes put captain Ted Dexter into the defensive mood sometimes shown in Australia later. Dexter sent four men to the outfield for accurate off-spinner David Allen one each side of the sightscreen and two patrolling the leg boundary. As Pataudi s hook off Barry Knight s bumper sped to the boundary to reach his 100, dozens of onlookers rushed on to the field. All this only six months after the car smash!

On a side note, an impressed EW Swanton (Gubby Allen, as per some sources) asked what prompted Pataudi to make a First-Class return so soon after his accident. When I saw the English Test attack, came the prompt response. He was twenty.

Compare this, somewhat unfairly, to others. Colin Milburn was perhaps the most explosive Northamptonshire batsman. He averaged 46.71 with the bat, but could not play a Test after he lost his eye in a car crash. He attempted a comeback, but his last 28 First-Class innings amounted to a solitary fifty. He was a shadow of his usual self.

Milburn is possibly the only case-study we can make here. Eiulf Buster Nupen had lost an eye when he was four, while KS Ranjitsinhji was a spent force (he was 48) when he attempted a return with one good eye. All we can do is guess, and look back at an incident mentioned by Gavaskar soon after he had an eye operated (and patched) on the World XI tour of Australia in 1971-72.

Gavaskar wrote in Sunny Days: This temporary disability brought home to me the tremendous handicap under which Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi had to play. When I tried to hold a glass of water, I would miss it by a foot. It was the same when I tried to do anything on my right side. My admiration for Tiger Pataudi grew as a result of my experience. Every little thing I did, like eating an ice-cream cone, found me missing the cone and licking the air instead! I wondered how Tiger played fast bowling and so well too.

While writing their wonderful book Courage Beyond Compare, Sanjay Sharma and Medini Sharma interviewed Dr Ranjit Maniar, a veteran at Department of Ophthalmology at Shushrusha Hospital, Mumbai. Dr Maniar analysed the injury: It is incredible that Tiger adapted to this at a fairly late age in life for a sportsperson, and then so soon after the accident. Normally it is easier for a child to do this, that is lose binocular vision and adapt to uniocular vision…As any boxer who has had one eye closed due to blows from an opponent will tell you, it [uniocular vision] causes loss of perspective of judgement and distances.

Setting the field ablaze

On the field Pataudi was electric. Though India had produced champion fielders like Lall Singh and Hemu Adhikari in the past, they were never an athletic side. The royalty, especially, for notorious for their reluctance to chase leather. Pataudi changed that: he set the trait, diving and sliding in an era when no Indian dreamed of doing the same; with Ajit Wadekar, Abid Ali, and Srinivas Venkataraghavan (and later, and most importantly, Eknath Solkar) joining in, India had transformed into a team of prowlers around the bat.

Merchant wrote in Illustrated Weekly in 1966 (the date is mentioned for a reason): At cover-point, he is not only the best fielders in India but one of the best in the world. His anticipation, quickness in covering ground, pick-up and throw are a delight to watch, and many a batsman has paid the supreme penalty of attempting to steal singles from him…To his batting average should always be added 25 runs per innings, to get a correct estimate of his contribution to the side.

Sounds like a pioneer in India, does he not? He was naturally gifted (one must remember he won the public schools rackets championship with Richard Snell), but he put in hours of effort. After nets, Pataudi fielded for over half an hour every day a habit unthinkable for his countrymen of his generation.

O captain, my captain

Despite his dynamic batting and fielding, Pataudi is remembered most as the first great Indian captain. Most of his teammates (especially the spin trio of Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, EAS Prasanna, and Bishan Bedi) still swear by him; they all claim that no other captain has motivated them the way Pataudi had. While he led by example, he gave ample freedom to his teammates, encouraging his spinners to toss the ball up to trade wickets for runs.

Pataudi had taken over as captain mid-series after a Charlie Griffith snorter ended Nari Contractor s international cricket career; he led India in 40 of the 46 Tests he played. The most famous casting-vote in Indian cricket had brought the run to a halt; and he was reinstated, as anyone would have guessed, on his own terms. To put things to perspective, Lala Amarnath (15) had led India the most number of times before Pataudi came along, and even today only four Indians have surpassed Pataudi s tally of 40.

Pataudi had his own strategies. He knew he did not have world-class fast bowlers, but he had a phalanx of good spinners at his disposal. He worked hard towards improving close-in fielding to back them up, and when a batsman could bowl seam was unearthed, Pataudi did not hesitate to drop a seamer to make way for a spinner.

It will not be an exaggeration to say that Pataudi did not believe in Indian pacers. Ramakant Desai, for example, had played 20 Tests in three years before Pataudi took over; he played in a mere 8 in the next six years. Bowling on flat Indian surfaces Desai earned 19 wickets for Pataudi at 29.78, but he was not an option Pataudi considered seriously.

Rusi Surti and Abid Ali, both all-rounders but bowlers of lesser abilities, got 21 and 12 Tests respectively (and averaged on the wrong side of 40 under Pataudi).

Spin, of course, was another aspect: Chandra, Prasanna, Bedi, and Venkat all bowled long spells under Pataudi; there was also the flamboyant Durani; a persistent Borde who bowled less in the later days; and of course, the miserly Bapu Nadkarni, who was a significant part of Pataudi s plan. Jaisimha (Test bowling average 92.11) opened bowling 30 times under Pataudi. The following numbers will make things clearer:



Others Total
















% Spin




His spinners, on the other hand, continue to remain loyal to both the captain and the individual. Prasanna wrote in One More Over: He was extremely intelligent and expected others to be so. Being mature and willing to consider others so, he allowed himself to be misinterpreted. What I am today is, in a large measure, because of his training. A fine ambassador , one was proud to follow him to the ends of the earth.

Likewise Bedi, in an interview with Makarand Waingankar: Pataudi was the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket. Opinions will always differ, but I am willing to stick my neck out and say that he was India s most daring captain ever. He was also way ahead of his time. He inculcated a sense of Indian-ness in our dressing-room.

This Indian-ness aspect was echoed by many a teammate. Pataudi was perhaps the first Indian captain to break the shackles of states. He believed in an egalitarian dressing-room (though he had immense respect for Jaisimha, under whose leadership he played for Hyderabad); this created a long-lasting effect on Bedi, the boy from Amritsar who made his debut when Indian cricket was dominated by Bombay and the royalty.

Prasanna s assessment of Pataudi expecting his teammates to be intelligent was valid. Gaekwad, new to the Indian side, asked his captain for tips. Pataudi responded: You have come here to play for India. If you are a batsman, you must know how to get runs. And the bowler must know how to get wickets. If you don t know this, you must go back and run. Don t waste my time.

On the flip side, there was a debutant Karsan Ghavri. Trailing by 7 at Eden Gardens in 1974-75, India were 192 for 6 when Ghavri joined Gundappa Viswanath. Let me quote Waingankar from Guts and Glory: BCCI bigwigs advised him not to play his shots so that Viswanath could score runs … As they all dispersed, Pataudi whispered something into Ghavri s ears. The captain told him to play his natural game, the same that had earned him a spot in the Indian team. Ghavri scored 27, helped Viswanath put on 91, and India won by 85 runs.

Viswanath himself still swears by Tiger. He was left distraught had scored a duck on Test debut. He was afraid of being dropped. Pataudi took him to a corner, and assured that he would play all Tests in the series. Thus buoyed, he scored an emphatic 137 in the second innings.

But these are quotes. What about hard numbers? 9 wins and 19 defeats (a win-loss ratio of 0.47) make abysmal reading. 5 of these 9 wins had come against New Zealand, minnows of the era. Pataudi led India to their first overseas series win, but it had come during India s first tour of the country. His record against New Zealand read 5-2, while it was 4-17 against other countries.

In short, Pataudi had never won a series against any country barring New Zealand. He led India in 11 series, winning 2, drawing 3 (one against New Zealand), and losing 9. There was a phase from 1963-64 to 1964-65 when India won 2, lost 1, and drew 9 Tests under Pataudi, but there was also one from 1966-67 to 1967-68 when he led India to a run of 8 (9, but he missed a Test) defeats punctuated by a draw.

Why, then, the hype around Pataudi? Why do some consider him the greatest captain the country has produced? He never won a Test against England; and though he won Tests against Australia and West Indies, he was not the first to do either. But then, arguments may be made that he led a weaker team.

But what if he had quality fast bowlers at his disposal?

Consider the 1966-67 series against West Indies, for example, where India lost 0-2 at home. West Indies had beaten England 3-1 on English soil. The tourists had played Sussex at Hove, and Garry Sobers side had lost inside two days. The hosts were reduced to 40 for 6 by Griffith and Rudolph Cohen after the West Indians were bowled out for 123.

Pataudi demoted Peter Graves and Oakman to keep them away from Griffith and Cohen. He himself batted at No. 3, and scored 32 of those first 40 runs. Graves and Oakman then added 59. John Snow claimed 11 for 47 in the match, and Sussex won by 9 wickets.

The above example possibly emphasises three things: first, he used fast bowlers when he had quality ones and conditions suiting them; second, his thought-processes were nimble, and he was flexible enough to make quick, necessary changes; and third, if he had the required resources, things could have been different for India.

Pataudi wanted to win. He gambled something Indians were not used to see on field. He made aggressive bowling and fielding changes. He was proactive. If he backed a bowler, he would back him till the end; it often led to defeats, but on occasions (the case of Chandra at Eden Gardens in 1974-75 is a perfect example) it succeeded.

Pataudi knew his resources were limited, but refused to go on the defensive. More than a captain from a royal family, he was a captain who led the royal way. He batted, set fields, and advised bowlers like a millionaire, refusing to get bogged down by the weight of big names in the opposition, making exceptions for Nadkarni, who played a specific role. India lost, sometimes abysmally; they were whitewashed multiple times: but it was seldom for the lack of effort. Let us, for example, do a case-study of how experimental Pataudi became when it came to batting-orders.

Batting positions

Total Open










Tiger Pataudi







Chandu Borde








Farokh Engineer








ML Jaisimha








Rusi Surti











Ajit Wadekar






Bapu Nadkarni









Dilip Sardesai






Salim Durani










Abid Ali






Hanumant Singh






Budhi Kunderan







Vijay Manjrekar







Surti had batted at 9 different positions in 40 innings; Nadkarni, 7 in 34; Durani, 8 in 27; and Budhi Kunderan has either opened or batted at (in over 25 per cent of his innings) at No. 8 or below. Sardesai was made to open. The list can go on, the point being that Pataudi kept shuffling his batting orders, always trying out one thing or the other to surprise the opposition.

Behind the calm, amicable exterior of Tiger Pataudi lay an unfathomable mystery
Behind the calm, amicable exterior of Tiger Pataudi lay an unfathomable mystery

The enigma

All this makes one think: is there not a contradiction? Why would a person who devoted half an hour to out-fielding practice every day after nets not use his own bat? How could a man be so professional and amateurish at the same time? By not carrying his own bat (Victor Trumper or Denis Compton, anyone?), was he sending out the wrong message, given that he had teammates who swore by him? Or was it his way to command respect?

Pataudi was a cavalier in a group of honest triers. Not only was his captaincy universally accepted, they also wanted to emulate him on field. One must remember that when he took over, he was the youngest member of the side, and continued to remain one of the youngest for several years.

How he managed to get people to respect him, idolise him, and yet not try to emulate the Pataudiesque idiosyncrasies beats the mind of a 2015 writer. Such was Pataudi s talent that he got away even with the attitude as apparently careless as not using his own bat. It was something heroes were supposed to do and succeed.

Maybe it was entirely choreographed. Maybe he had practised the art of batting with different bats, and did the same in Tests to inspire awe in the hearts of others. Maybe he wanted to become the ultimate hero. But then, he was always approachable, sat next to his chauffeur, and was always Pat on the ground.

Maybe we are getting it entirely wrong. Maybe he was too talented and careless at the same time. Maybe he really had the attitude of a Trumper or a Compton. One can only speculate.

Early days

Established in 1804, Pataudi State is a small (52 square miles) princely state in what is currently Haryana. Faiz Talab Khan, the first Nawab of Pataudi, had fought for the British during the second Anglo-Maratha War. Iftikhar Ali Khan Siddiqui, the eighth Nawab, had scored a hundred on Test debut for England, and later led India on their 1946 tour of England.

Mansur Ali (Khan) Hussain Siddiqui was born in Bhopal. His mother Begum Sajida Sultan was the daughter of Hamidullah Khan, the last ruling Nawab of Bhopal. As the son of a Nawab, Mansur did not have the easiest of childhoods. For example, he was assigned an under-threat palace window to defend.

On the other hand, at the same age of six, Pataudi Sr asked Gunn & Moore Ltd to make a special autograph bat for the youngster. GM were not used to make autograph bats that small, but they made one for Mansur. Iftikhar was confident his son would make it big in the realm of cricket. The family motto, nasrum-mihallahe wa fathun qareeb (by the grace of Allah, a quick victory) was something the Pataudis lived by.

He went to AMU Minto Circle School, Aligarh, and Welham Boys School, Dehradun. Then, on his 11th birthday, something tragic happened: his father passed away from a heart attack while playing polo. It was a major blow for young Mansur. Wisden wrote: His father was his hero and on the walls of his bedroom hung photographs of his father at the crease and groups of the teams he had played in and captained. For him every birthday went on to become a reminder of that day.

But he took things in his stride. On one occasion, Gavaskar and Pataudi were on the same flight from Nairobi in 1978 when the aircraft went through a turbulent phase. The date was August 16, Pataudi s son Saif Ali Khan s birthday. Gavaskar asked him: Didn t your father pass away on your birthday? Maybe now history is repeating itself on Saif s birthday.

The look I got would have killed me well before any possible crash, Gavaskar later reminisced. Pataudi was averse to flights; he was scared; but once he was on solid ground, the humour returned.

Oxford and Sussex

Shortly afterwards his father s death, Mansur was sent to England. He found on board Vinoo Mankad, en route Lancashire as a Haslingden professional; and on their return from Australia to the Caribbean Islands, the trio of Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes, and Clyde Walcott, along with Sonny Ramadhin, travelled with Pataudi.

He went to Lockers Park Prep School, Hertfordshire, where he was tutored by Frank Woolley, no less. He studied at Winchester (where he earned the nickname Noob), and led them in 1959. He scored 1,068 runs that season, thus beating a 40-year record in school cricket by a certain Winchester alumnus called Douglas Jardine. It was a day straight out of a Bollywood script: Jardine had, after all, played a role in the axing of Pataudi Sr during the Bodyline series one Test after the latter had scored a hundred on Test debut.

All this, however, had happened two years after a 16-year-old Noob made his First-Class debut for Sussex in 1957. Robin Marlar recalled how Hubert Doggart had persuaded him to take Sussex to play Winchester. Marlar recalled in his article Starting with Sussex: My reward was to be hit, I think, for five majestic sixes, several of which would have splintered the sight screen, had it not been canvas. My team sniggered. I was less than half amused but then and there resolved that this Pataudi would play for Sussex and not for his father s country, Worcestershire.

He went on to study Arabic and French at Balliol College (under Oxford), though academics was among the last things on his mind. When pointed out that he was not studying hard enough, Pataudi s typical response was I won t have to be doing anything; you see, I am a Nawab.

He soon became the first Indian to lead the University while continuing with his Sussex duties. Abbas Ali Baig, Pataudi s teammate at Oxford, later told Waingankar: While I was the toast of Oxford in my first year, Tiger took on the mantle immediately after he joined the side. He scored heavily and equalled my record for most runs in a season on the varsity ground … His fielding was electric and there haven t been many like him.

In 1961 he had an amazing run for Oxford, scoring a match-saving 79 not out against Lancashire, 106 and 103* (out of 170) against Yorkshire, and 144 against Middlesex in consecutive innings. He was in sublime form. Then followed the other streak, of 65, 65, 55, and 108, as mentioned above.

To give an idea about the kind of form Pataudi was in, N Ram mentions a (apocryphal?) piece from The Hindu, published May 22, 1961: Pick me a target , said the young Nawab of Pataudi to a fieldsman after he had hit two successive sixes. The opponent pointed out a car beyond the far boundary. The next ball the Nawab smote plumb on the car roof. The motorist, delighted at the honour, begged and received the 20-year-old Oxford captain s autograph on the dent.

Then came July 1.

The accident

Oxford were visiting Sussex at Hove, and despite Ian Potter s 5-wicket haul, the hosts managed to declare on 299 for 9. Pataudi, leading Oxford, caught Alan Oakman and Les Lenham. Donald Smith took out the Oxford openers before stumps, and the students finished on 12 for 2 with Alan Duff and Robin Waters at the crease.

They had dinner at Brighton. It was a 300-yard walk back to the hotel. His teammates tried to persuade him: Come with us, Pat, a walk will do you good. Pataudi decided to hop into Waters Morris 1000 and perched next to the driver. How Indian cricket wished he did not go for the 300-yard drive!

Pataudi himself recollected in Tiger s Tale: I had just settled down, when a big car suddenly pulled out into the middle of the road and into the path. We hit it straight on. The boys, for boys they were, were rushed to the hospital; Waters got away with a few gashes on the forehead; but Pataudi had a shard of glass inside his eye.

Dr David St Clair Roberts performed an emergency operation. Pataudi later said that he did a very good job . He tried using a contact lens which, according to him, gave him a 90 per cent vision but made him see two of everything . It was simply not an option. He had to play with one good eye.

A decade-long mantle

Pataudi stormed back to domestic cricket. Within 6 months of the accident he had scored a Test hundred. Within 8 months of the accident he was in West Indies as Contractor s deputy. He was named Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year. After Contractor was felled by a brute from Griffith, Pataudi, 77 days after his 21st birthday (only Tatenda Taibu has led at a younger age), walked out to toss with Worrell the man who had accompanied him on board a decade back. Who would have thunk?

[Trivia: The Pataudis are the only father-son combination to lead India in Tests.]

India were whitewashed 0-5, but back home Pataudi led India to a winless draw against England a side so depleted by injuries and illnesses that Henry Blofeld was put up as standby and Colin Cowdrey had to be flown in. India were in some sort of bother at Kotla, where Pataudi walked out at 101 for 2 after England secured a 107-run lead. Pataudi slammed an emphatic 203 not out. That year India s youngest captain was honoured with the Arjuna Award. He was the second cricketer to receive the award, after Durani.

Before the Eden Gardens Test, however, the selectors were circumspect about Pataudi s selection. He was out of form, and the selectors even asked him to get checked by a renowned ophthalmologist. Pataudi refused: There is nothing that an ophthalmologist can tell me that I cannot tell you myself. After my injury, I am totally blind in one eye, and only the left eye is functioning … If you feel I am not in form, by all means appoint someone else as captain. He stayed on.

Brabourne triumph

While many consider Pataudi s 75 and 85 at MCG as his finest, he played a couple of equally crucial innings in India s win over Australia (who played with ten men, what with Norman O Neill being ruled out of the Test after the toss) at Brabourne Stadium in 1964-65. Australia scored 320 and reduced India to 188 for 6, but Pataudi, top-scoring with 86, added crucial runs with Surti and Nadkarni to take India to 341.

India were set 254. Pataudi held back himself and Vijay Manjrekar, promoting Durani, Nadkarni, and Surti to have a go at the bowlers. The ploy backfired, and Pataudi and Manjrekar found themselves together at 122 for 6 in the first session of Day Five. At tea they came back with the score on 215 for 6. Pataudi was eventually eighth out for a 203-minute 53. Borde guided India to a 2-wicket victory in the end with KS Indrajitsinhji for company.

[Trivia: Earlier that series, Pataudi had scored 128* at Chepauk in his first innings against Australia. His father had scored a hundred in his first innings against Australia as well.]

Overseas affairs

India were whitewashed in England and Australia (they lost 7 Tests in a row), but it was certainly not for Pataudi s batting. When India followed-on at Headingley, trailing by 386, Pataudi walked out at No. 6 and carved out a 348-ball 148 to take India to 510 against his Sussex teammate Snow. He was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year.

[Trivia: It was the first time that the son of a Wisden Cricketer of the Year was also named one (Iftikhar was honoured in 1932). Surprisingly, Pataudi was not the only one that year: Jim Parks Jr, whose father of the same name had been named in 1938, was another Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1967.]

He followed this with 339 at 56.50 with 4 fifties from 6 innings (including the twin fifties at MCG) in Australia. He led the averages tally comfortably, and though Surti scored 367, he had taken two innings more. No Indian captain has scored as many runs or fifties in a tour of Australia.

Then came the 4-Test series in New Zealand that India clinched 3-1, winning at Dunedin, Wellington, and Eden Park. Nadkarni, Bedi, and Prasanna shared 54 wickets between them at less than 20, which tilted the series in India s favour. Pataudi did not take the world by storm, but top-scored in the first innings at Eden Park with 51, helping India reach 252 after being 69 for 3.

The win, albeit against the weakest contemporary team, helped create self-belief in the Indian side. With strong batting performances in England and Australia, Pataudi seemed to be the ideal leader. Prasanna had returned strongly with Bedi to support him. Nadkarni and Durani were still around, and Chandra and Venkat were on the ascent.

The casting-vote

Then came the blow. India barely managed to draw against New Zealand at home. Worse, they were routed 1-3 at home by Australia. Barring a patient 95 at Brabourne Stadium Pataudi did little with the bat in the second series, scoring 220 at 24.44. By playing 18 men in the series, Merchant s selection committee sent out the message that they were clearly interested in fresh blood.

There is a school of thought that believes in the fact that Merchant was not happy with the fact that Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi led India to England in 1946 ahead of him. Mansur s nephew Saad Bin Jung, a First-Class cricketer, called Merchant a staunch detractor of the family since 1945 .

The same school believes that Merchant took it out on Mansur when the selection committee, presided by him, took the historic decision when announcing the squad for West Indies in 1971. The five wise men were supposed to meet on January 8, 1971. Since Borde the Indian vice-captain of the time was left out of the side, there was no question regarding who would lead. Who would, after all, displace Tiger?

MN Dutta Roy, the East Zone selector, was absent that day, which brought the count to four. CD Gopinath (South) and MM Jagdale voted for Pataudi. This was when Merchant (West) and Bal Dani (North) put forth the name of Wadekar, almost out of nowhere. The result hung on Merchant s casting-vote, and the unthinkable happened.

Wadekar was as surprised as anyone. He had gone out curtain-shopping with his wife, and came back to find a crowd, consisting mostly of journalists, around his house. Pataudi got in touch with him that evening, assuring him full support. By the time the team was announced next morning, Pataudi had withdrawn from the side citing personal reasons .

The second blow

While this happened at Bombay, Tiger faced another blow. The Indian Government abolished all princely establishments including Pataudi. A chunk of India, going into the troubled 1970s, looked at it as the victory of the commoner over the royalty.

Mansur Ali Khan was not a Nawab anymore. In fact, official scoreboards carried the name Mansur Ali Khan. It was probably a bigger incident than meets the eye. Being the last representative of a legacy hardly makes one proud. Pataudi was proud of his royal background. Ian Chappell narrated an incident when he asked Pataudi what his profession was. Ian, I am a prince, was the curt response.

Chappell insisted. What did the man do between nine to five? Ian, I m a bloody prince, was the reply.

Chappell was not willing to give up so easily. What did Pataudi do when he went to work? Ian, I m a f**king prince. The message finally hit home.

The 26th Amendment to the Indian Constitution could not have gone down easily with the man.

The third blow

Shortly after his removal from the post of Indian captain, Pataudi decided to stand for the Fifth Lok Sabha Elections for Vishal Haryana Party from Gurgaon in protest of the abolition of privy purses. Almost immediately Lala Amarnath put up his name as an independent candidate from the same constituency, but later withdrew in favour of the Indian National Congress candidate.

With Indira Gandhi and Congress at their peak, Pataudi did not stand a chance. Her garibi hatao (eradicate poverty) campaign steamrolled over the erstwhile Nawab, who finished with a mere 22,979 votes out of 398,638. It was a clean sweep for Congress Tayyab Hussain (199,333), though Pataudi came third after independent candidate K Narendra (131,391).

Pataudi never contested again, though he had political connections. His cousin Shahryar Khan was the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, and later went on to become the Chairman of PCB. Another cousin, Major-General Isfandiyar Ali Pataudi, was a frontrunner to take over as the chief of ISI.


Pataudi did not tour West Indies or England in India s golden year of 1971, but when England toured India in 1972-73, he played them for South Zone at Chinnaswamy. Walking out at 53 for 3 he slammed an unbeaten 100, allowing Venkat to declare at 274 for 5. England had won at Kotla and lost at Eden Gardens, and Lewis men were certainly not willing to give anything away.

He was recalled for the Chepauk Test. England scored 242 and took out 2 early wickets. Pataudi carved out a patient 73, emerging as top-scorer and helping secure a 131-run lead. Set to defend 86 on a turner, Pat Pocock reduced India to 51 for 4 (and 78 for 6), but Pataudi stayed till the end to ensure the win. He added a composed 54 at Green Park for good measure.

Wadekar insisted on Pataudi s inclusion for the fateful 1974 tour of England. Pataudi did not agree. Wadekar went to the extent of standing down as captain to allow the senior man take over, but Pataudi would not relent. To make things worse, there was a row between Bedi and Wadekar before the series, and Prasanna had to be left out for the first Test. Both men were staunch Pataudi supporters.

India were whitewashed in what is referred to as the Summer of 42. Not only was Wadekar axed, he was also cruelly dropped from the side for good. Pataudi was back in the mix. He was offered the post for the first Test of the series at Chinnaswamy against West Indies that winter, but Pataudi would not have any of it: it had to be either all five or none.

Tiger s final hurrah

India fought well to bring West Indies down from 177 for 1 to 289 and managed to reach 260 after being 199 for 8. Then Pataudi dislocated his finger, Farokh Engineer received a blow over his eye, and India were set 386 with nine men. They were never in the match, and were bowled out for 118.

Pataudi missed the next Test at Kotla, and after a lot of confusion, Venkat was appointed captain. India paid the price by leaving out Chandra, the only man who had bothered Viv Richards at Chinnaswamy. Richards slammed 192 before Lance Gibbs bowled West Indies to an innings victory.

Pataudi was back at the helm at Eden Gardens, where India eventually set the tourists 310 (Pataudi was hit on the jaw by Andy Roberts earlier in the Test). West Indies reached 163 for 3; the Eden Gardens crowd, usually supportive of Tiger, criticised him for persisting with Chandra, who was flogged by Lloyd. But Pataudi, given the man he was, stuck to his decision.

Then Chandra struck: he removed Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran, and Bernard Julien in the space of 23 runs. With Bedi chipping away at the other end, India won by 85 runs. He received a standing ovation, more so because they knew it was going to be his last appearance.

India kept the momentum going at Chepauk. A classy 97 by Viswanath helped India reach 190, and Gaekwad s second-innings 80 helped them set 255. Prasanna, Bedi, and Chandra all chipped in with wickets, and India went to the newly-built Wankhede with the series levelled 2-2.

Tiger s last Test was a no-contest: Lloyd slammed 242 not out; Roy Fredericks, 104; Deryck Murray, 91; Gibbs claimed 7 wickets in the first innings and Vanburn Holder 6 in the second; West Indies lost only 9 wickets and romped to a 201-run victory, claiming the series. It was a defeat, but a hard-fought one.

Pataudi played domestic cricket for another season, the highlight of which was an emphatic 198 at Chepauk against Venkat s Tamil Nadu. His First-Class numbers read 15,425 runs at 33.67 with 33 hundreds.

The other story

Pataudi had met Jeffrey Archer at Oxford, and the great author took to him almost immediately. Archer later wrote in Indian Express: The first thing that struck me about him was the God-given gift he possessed to treat all men as equals. He was an amateur back then, a man of singular talent. Of course he was a dashing young fellow with an exquisite cover-drive, but what stood out were the qualities of an old-fashioned gentleman in him, even as a young man. He stood apart for his kind nature and a heart of gold. I followed his cricket closely during his varsity days and went on to become a great fan of his captaincy when he plied his trade for India. But the Nawab I know, adore and remember is the man himself, the brilliant nature possessed within his shy being.

Archer paid his tribute to his friend. When Quiver Full of Arrows, his first collection of short stories came out, it was evident that The Century, the sixth story of the anthology, was based on Pataudi. The protagonist was an Oxonian; his father had scored a hundred at Lord s while leading Oxford in the varsity match and played for England and captained India.

To quote Archer, The son, the experts predicted, would carry on in the family tradition. He was in much the same mould as his father, tall and rangy with jet-black hair, and as a cricketer, a fine right-handed batsman. The laconic sense of humour in the piece is unmistakably a tribute to Pataudi. Of course, there were plot point changes, but the inspiration was evident.

Beyond the boundary

Even after calling it quits, Pataudi remained connected to cricket. He edited Sportsworld, a Kolkata-based sports magazine. His dry sense of humour made him a popular commentator, and he also became an ICC match referee, officiating in 2 Tests and 10 ODIs between 1993 and 1996. He became the President of the Players Association.

Pataudi won the CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. When IPL was conceived, he became a part of the governing body along with Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri. He resigned two seasons later, as did Gavaskar.

The trademark sense of humour, of course, was there all along. Anecdotes of Pataudi s wit and antics are aplenty. As Mohinder told Lokapally, People said he was reserved. Maybe he was to some extent. He was strict but he had a subtle sense of humour and could pull off practical jokes with a straight face.

Let us consider Bedi s Test debut at Eden Gardens. After a few overs from Subramanya, Pataudi had introduced Chandra to bowl in tandem with Surti. Bedi was brought on just when the clock ticked 12. It is rumoured that Pataudi did so keeping in tune with the standard Bengali joke that Sikhs, well, lose it at 12 o clock. Once again, this may be apocryphal.

Bedi had also bowled the last over of Day Two on his Duleep Trophy debut against Central Zone. When Pataudi tossed the ball to him the third morning, Bedi pointed out that he could not bowl consecutive overs. Let me see if the umpires are awake, came the response.

At the back of a dry Indian Airlines flight from Mumbai to Kolkata he was spotted drinking vintage brandy (along with Blofeld and John Woodcock). He had, obviously, sneaked it from his palace in Bhopal. This went on to become a tradition. When Lewis asked his daughter Jo, then Senior Cricket Producer for World Sport Group, how Tiger was doing, he got the obvious response: Tiger Uncle making best of it. Next to Sir Garry, pull-down seats on Russian KL76 freight plane to Guwahati. With flask.

There was also the case of the Green Park Test of 1969-70. The match was meandering to a draw after Viswanath s match-saving hundred. India were 7 wickets down. Ian Chappell, who perhaps understood Pataudi as much as anyone did, walked up to Bill Lawry.

Chappell: Phant, do you want to get off this field in a hurry?

Lawry: Yes, that would be good.

Chappell asked Lawry to bowl his left-arm seam. This obviously hurt Pataudi s ego. He declared immediately after one over, and sent down an over himself to Lawry. He bowled right-arm medium with a full run-up that started from the sight-screen, but he had his say.

He once told Engineer that he owned Victoria Memorial, leaving the poor man knocking on the gate.

He ganged up with teammates to recommend human shampoo (you really do not want to guess) to straighten Pochiah Krishnamurthy s curly hair.

Whenever he came to Delhi he brought a crate of Heineken for his Sportsworld colleagues, and went back with a frozen leg of mutton.

When Mudar Patherya quoted a line from Iqbal, Pataudi sent him a handwritten note: The next time you quote Iqbal, get Khushwant Singh to translate.

While his father was an exceptional player of the sitar, Tiger himself was an expert at the flute, the harmonium, and the tabla

Reel romance, and the man

Pataudi met Sharmila Tagore (Ayesha Sultana after their wedding) just before he was 25. They got married in 1968, and stayed at 1 Dupleix Road till his death. Related to Rabindranath Tagore, Sharmila made her film debut with Satyajit Ray s Apur Sansar, the movie that completed the iconic Apu Trilogy, and went on to become a popular Indian actress of the 1960s and 1970s. She was impressed with his wit, innate gentleness, and rendition of Mukesh s dil jalta hai to jalne do ( if the heart burns, let it ).

The conservative nation did not take too well when Sharmila was photographed in a bikini for the cover of Filmfare. They were still not married; Sharmila was shooting for An Evening in Paris; when Pataudi got to know, his reaction was Relax! You could only be looking very nice.

[Trivia: it is worth a mention that IMDb has a mysterious page for Mansoor Ali Khan, husband of Sharmila Tagore and nicknamed Tiger Pataudi. The trivia section includes accurate facts regarding his children, grandchildren, and cricket career. The page also mentions he was the assistant director of Khwaabb, a 2014 film, and has acted in 15 films, including one in 2013 and two in 2014. The 2013 movie, the Tamil-Telugu Singam 2, on which the 2014 Bollywood movie Singham Returns was based, was probably the most famous of these. The film career, mostly including Telugu films, can do with some validation.]

Tiger was an aficionado of Indian classical music (though he was a great fan of Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mahmood, and Lata Mangeshkar, and introduced Sharmila to Begum Akhtar). While his father was an exceptional player of the sitar, Tiger himself was an expert at the flute, the harmonium, and the tabla. He had his own hiran dance ( which would compete with any of the present-day item numbers ), and along with Baig, performed the cricket dance (what on earth?) in front of Sonal Mansingh, no less.

He was a remote-control gourmet chef ; his vocabulary of curse-words never exceeded O Christ! ( manners maketh man ); his sense of humour was infectious; he failed to learn Bengali; and it was the presence of Saif, five months when he was sacked as captain, that restored him.

Saif followed his father s footsteps at Winchester. His friends complained that he hogged the billiards table, which was the only reason why they were happy to see him go. It was later revealed that he used the table to sleep on it. Once out of college, Saif became a successful Bollywood actor, as did his sister Soha. Their other sister Saba became a jewellery designer.

Pataudi continued to remain competitive at any sport. For example, he took part in a father-son match when Saif was 9. The 9-year-olds bowled to him, and he kept smashing them for boundaries, even breaking a couple of windshields. Few were amused, but he enjoyed a lot and did not bother about the fact that people avoided him at tea.

Final days

Pataudi visited England almost annually to shoot partridge and pheasant. He was an exceptional hunter, though how he managed to do that with one good eye remains a mystery. In 2005 he was suspected of poaching when the carcasses of an endangered species of antelope was found in the boot of his blue Maruti Gypsy. He was subsequently granted bail.

Tiger Pataudi presents Rahul Dravid with the Pataudi Trophy at The Oval, 2007    Getty Images
Tiger Pataudi presents Rahul Dravid with the Pataudi Trophy at The Oval, 2007 Getty Images

To mark 75 years of India s first Test, MCC introduced the Pataudi Trophy in 2007 for the Test series between India and England in England; it was named after Pataudi Sr, the only cricketer to have represented both countries. Surprisingly, the same teams meet in India to contest for the Anthony de Mello Trophy (though many, including Sharmila, have been vocal in an attempt to name both contests to Pataudi Trophy).

And then, there was the trip to Ireland, where he met Waters, who recalled in an interview with Wisden: He invited me to dinner at the team hotel and afterwards said, Shall we go for a walk? We strolled out on to the beach and eventually sat Buddha-like under a tree. He looked at me and said: Robin, I have a feeling that over the years you have tortured yourself about the accident, but I have never ever blamed you for what happened.

An acute lung infection caused by chronic interstitial lung disease forced him to be admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, on September 22, 2011.

Mansur Ali Khan died the same day, and was buried at Pataudi the day after. Sharmila kept his wish, and donated his good eye.


BCCI started the Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi Memorial Lecture in his memory on February 20, 2013. Unfortunately, none of his family members could attend the lecture, which was delivered by Gavaskar at Taj Coromandel, Chennai: Sharmila was down with food poisoning, Saif was shooting for Bullett Raja, Soha was promoting Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, and Saba was busy with her events. Not that the man would have minded.

The second edition, delivered by Anil Kumble at Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai on November 13 the same year, was attended by the entire family. VVS Laxman was the speaker at the third, at Taj Bengal, Kolkata on November 12, 2014.

BCCI announced that it will be an annual schedule on lines with the Colin Cowdrey Memorial Lecture named after, ironically, the only batsman Pataudi had dismissed in Test cricket.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)