Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi is no more having succumbed to a lung infection at Delhi. Pataudi’s going is the end of an era and a shining example that in India secularism prevails and a man is honored and selected for his worth and not on his religion.
Pataudi was a Muslim and yet in a country where 85% of the population is Hindu was appointed captain of India. He led the Indian team in 40 test matches in a career spanning 15 years from 1961-75. This was a period of renaissance in Indian cricket and a lot of it had to do with Pataudi. In those days, before the advent of Pataudi, the Indian team entered into the stadium with an aim to draw the test match. Pataudi changed that and brought out the killer instinct and India under him started to win test matches. He led India to 9 wins including strong teams like the West Indian team led by Clive Lloyd and the Australians led by Chappell and Simpson.
Pataudi was a dasher and above all a patriot. In an interview, one journalist asked that did he ever feel any discrimination as a Muslim in Indian cricket. His reply was short and swift- I challenge anybody to say that. Pataudi inculcated in the Indian team a sense of unity and he groomed a series of players that did excellent service for India, years after he left the scene.
Sometimes figures and statistics do not tell the correct tale. Pataudi hit 6 centuries and had a batting average of 35, yet he cannot as a batsman is judged on these figures. His worth was much more as he cornered the fastest pace bowlers and led the Indian challenge. All this with one eye as he had lost an eye in a car accident in 1960.
Pataudi earned the title Tiger and that stuck to him during his playing days and even after retirement. He brought aggression on the field and led by personal example. His captaincy was superb and batting tigerish. He will remain in the minds of Indians for ages to come. Would it not be right to call him the father of the modern Indian Team?