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Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi | From impaired vision to conquering the world - an incredible tale of the one-eyed Tiger

In this blog, we will give an insight into the life of Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, India's first superstar cricketer. Pataudi always believed in playing the game the right way.

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Last updated: 27.06.2020
Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi | Sports Social Blog

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It takes a lot to be a legend in any sport. Sport-persons spend their life plying their trade, intending to earn the respect of the romantics of the game. Cricketers are no different. Indian cricketers, especially, carry the burden of the expectations of more than a billion fans. While sometimes they are on the receiving end of anger and abuse, they are mostly adored by a fanbase who considers cricket more of a religion than anything else. 


Some enjoy this pressure and come out with careers worth a diamond. In the meanwhile, they create some fascinating stories. Those that will outlive the legends themselves. Here we present to you an incredible story of resilience and determination of a former Indian captain.

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A car mishap which cost him the sight in one eye to become one of the finest Indian captains of all time. Nawab of Pataudi could have been so much more if it wasn't for the accident. But it's almost frightening if you look at the legacy that he had built through the years. Before Dhoni lifted that world in Wankhede. Before Dada revamped the side from all the chaos. Even before Kapil Dev and co conquered the world. There was this player who quietly shaped Indian cricket the way we know it today. A magnificent personality who was way more far-sighted than his peers. 


Early life:

Born to a royal family in 1940, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi lost his father Nawab of Pataudi Senior at an early age of 11 years. His father represented England and has a century to his name for them. But his son 'Tiger' played exclusively for India and played 46 tests for India. Nawab of Pataudi Junior did his schooling in England and started playing cricket at a very young age. And was even hailed as one of the most talented cricketers in the world during his time at Oxford. And then came the day!



The accident:

Before he could make a mark at the highest level, he met with an unfortunate accident. In a head-on accident with another car, a splinter from the windscreen entered his right eye which left him with double vision. It was a kind of body blow for a young sportsperson just on the brink of his first break into the international circuit. Due to the serious injuries that he suffered during the accident, many expected him to not play cricket ever again.



But Tiger never gave up:

The courageous man that Pataudi indeed was, he arose and followed his passion and made his debut for India in less than six months. 


He later in an interview said, "I lost sight in an eye, but didn't lose sight of my ambition. With a contact lens in my eye, I found I could get 90 percent of my vision. The only trouble was it made me see two of everything."


And the legend found his way through this handicap, adjusting his hand in little ways. Like opening up his stance. And the rest, as they say, is history. His career after the accident has to be one of the nation's greatest cricketing stories. 


At the age of 21, Pataudi became the Indian team captain when Nari Contractor was injured by a Charlie Griffith bouncer and sent to the hospital. While no-one amongst the seniors was ready to take up the mantle against the mighty West Indies. Although India lost the series 5-0, the era under Pataudi had begun. 



His unique theory of captaincy: 

Pataudi believed that the team should play to its strength. So instead of looking for an opening fast bowler, he fielded four spinners in his team. And hence came to prominence the famous quartet of Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar, and Vemkatraghavan who were all individually and collectively successful under his progressive captaincy. His theory of captaincy was interesting and simple. According to him, the captaincy was either about pulling from the front or was about pushing from the back. He considered himself to be a pusher, someone who got the best of his team, even though he was not the best amongst them. Citing examples like Don Bradman and Gary Sobers who led from the front. Tiger believed that people like Mike Brearley and Illingworth were pushers. And he always argued that he belonged to the latter category.


He led India to its first victory on foreign soil in New Zealand, winning the series 3-1. Even though his overall record of captaincy was not great, the way he captained the side is something that people talk about even today. 


In pic: Nawab of Pataudi with wife Sharmila Tagore


His batting prowess:

Pataudi the batsman, from what his record suggests, was not the best in the business. Due to the accident, he had problems with this vision. He must have scored a lot of runs if it wasn't for the accident, is the popular belief among those who actually followed him in those days. When a journalist asked about how he played with one eye, Pataudi wittingly replied, "I saw two balls, and hit the one on the inside."


Even after all this, he managed to play some wonderful innings. For one famous inning at the MCG where he played with one eye and one leg (he had a hamstring injury). And still attacked the Aussies attack courageously on a grassy wicket. This prompted a former player Lindsay Hassett to say, "that's the way Bradman used to dominate bowling attacks."


He scored 203 at Delhi against England, and his knock of 148 at Headingley against an English side that had the likes of Robin Hobbs, Ray Illingworth, Ken Higgs, and John Snow in its rank, is considered to be one of the finest of his illustrious career. This is the kind of innings that left people craving for more.



And the legend is eternal…

Pataudi always believed in playing the game the right way. Once in a match, when Bapu Nadkarni was adjourned leg before, but the batsmen stood his ground, refusing to move an inch towards the dressing room. The fair man that Tiger was, he became furious and screamed from the pavilion, "Come on that's enough". The right brand of play has earned him many admirers, most notably among them being Bishan Singh Bedi, who said he was lucky to have a captain who believed in playing the game right. 


He died in 2011 from a lung infection. But of course, the tiger never gave up. The legend continues...


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