Tiger’ Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi: A Gentleman Cricketer and a Legendary Captain

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By Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Mumbai, 23 September 2011: With the death of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, nicknamed ‘Tiger’, a gentleman cricketer and a legendary  captain of Indian cricket team passed into the pages of history. However, the memories of this ‘gentleman cricketer’ and a fine human being will linger in the minds of many of his contemporaries who had been keeping a track of his cricketing career. Pataudi passed away on September 22, 2011 at Sri Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi due to the complications caused by lung infection.


Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was born on January 5, 1941 to Iftikar Ali Pataudi, the eighth Nawab of Pataudi, a town in the Gurgaon District of Haryana and Sajida Sultan, second daughter of the last ruling Nawab of Bhopal. Thus, Manusr Ali Khan inherited the title of the ‘Nawab of Pataudi’ from his father which he retained till 1971 when it was abolished by the Twenty sixth Amendment to the Constitution which abolished all royal titles during the prime minsitership of Mrs. Indira Gandhi.




It is interesting to note that, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi inherited not only the title as the Nawab, but also the cricketing genes from his father, Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi who was not only an accomplished cricketer but also the captain of the Indian Cricket Team  in 1946. However, Mansur Ali Khan was too young when his father played the sport and was barely 11 when he lost him forever in 1952.



Nicknamed ‘Tiger’, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was an adventurous and fearless right-handed batsman, with a penchant for lofting the ball over the infield. He was also an efficient right-arm medium-pacer. Despite impairing his right-eye vision permanently, owing to a car accident, Pataudi junior’s strong willpower and zeal urged him on to overcome his handicap and pursue his strong passion for cricket.


‘Tiger’ Pataudi made his international debut in December 1961 against England at New Delhi. He played 46 Tests between 1961 and 1975 and was regarded as one of India’s greatest captains.



Pataudi was given the responsibility of leading the Indian Test team in his fourth Test, when he was only 21 year old in Barbados in 1962 as the incumbent captain Nari Contractor was in hospital after getting hit on the head by Charlie Griffith.


Pataudi, who was also known for his amazing sense of humour, was the youngest Test captain, a record that stood until 2004. He led India in 40 Tests and had a successful career. He also captained Sussex and Oxford University.  Under Pataudi’s captaincy, India won nine Tests but it was he who instilled the belief in the team that it could win international matches. India achieved their first overseas Test victory under him, against New Zealand in Dunedin in 1968. India then went on to record their first overseas series win by beating New Zealand 3-1.



‘Tiger’ Pataudi scored 2793 runs in 46 Tests at an average of 35 and made six centuries, the biggest of which was an unbeaten 203 against England in Delhi in 1964. After leading Indian Cricket Team for eight years, Pataudi lost the captaincy in 1970. However, he continued to play in the Indian team till 1975, the year when  West Indies tour India.


After retirement, Pataudi served as a match referee between 1993 and 1996, officiating in two Tests and ten ODIs, but largely stayed away from cricket administration. He was also a part of the first IPL governing council but refused to continue in the role in October 2010, when the BCCI made significant changes to the league following the sacking of Lalit Modi as its chairman. He was also the editor of the ‘Sportsworld’, the now defunct cricket magazine, and a television commentator in the 1980s. However, he gradually withdrew from an active role, though he remained a strong voice in Indian cricket.



In  December 1969, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi married the versatile actress of the time,  Sharmila Tagore. Pataudi met actor Sharmila Tagore on the sets of ’An Evening In Paris’ in 1966, sealing a love affair that spanned four decades. It took four years for the young Pataudi to woo Sharmila Tagore who came from the illustrious family of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.


Despite their respective famous backgrounds, both families were against a marriage between a aspiring cricketer, not considered a career proper for a man in the 1960s, and a Bollywood star, considered a sex symbol at the peak of her career. The fact that theirs was an inter-religious marriage also sparked off objections.



But despite dissimilar family backgrounds, they married in December 1969 and Tagore converted to Islam adopting the name Begum Ayesha Sultana. Despite her top billing and stunning good looks, Tagore decided to take a break from acting. However, Sharmila Tagore did act in few films sometimes after the marriage duly supported by Pataudi.



Among the three children of Pataudi and Sharmila, son-Saif Ali Khan and daughter-Soha Ali Khan followed their mother’s footsteps and became considerably successful actors in the Bollywood. Another daughter-Saba Ali Khan is a jewellery designer.
For his immense contribution and dedication in the field of cricket, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1964, Padma Shri in 1967 and was also honored with the ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year’ in 1968.



With the passing away of ‘Tiger’ Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, one of the important links between the legendary traditional Test Cricket players and the new generation of ‘commercial cricketers’ is broken. With his royal inheritance, educational background, sophisticated game, dignified life and gentleman-like qualities, late ‘Tiger’ Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi  will be remembered for his contribution to the game of cricket for a long time.



Comments on this Article
Deepak, Dombivili Fri, September-23-2011, 2:29
One of the very few gentlemen of the game and in real life.
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