Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi is regarded as one of the greatest captains India has ever produced. An accident left him with just one eye but didn’t stop him from becoming India’s captain at the tender age of 21 and he did it with great distinction. He led India to their first Test victory overseas against New Zealand in 1967, winning nine out of the 40 Tests that he led India in.
Many believe that if not for the accident, he would have finished as one of the greatest batsman India has ever produced.
India batting great Rahul Dravid recalled meeting Pataudi in 1997 and revealed how he found there was no bitterness in him about the injury.
“When I got into the Indian team, and like most Indian kids I was a huge fan of Pataudi. I hadn’t watched him play and I had heard Erapalli Prasanna talk about him a lot. In 1997 when I got into the Indian team and I was in Delhi to play a Test match against Australia and I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet Pataudi and just talk to him. I wasn’t sure how I would get it done. I didn’t have the courage to go and ask him or pick up the phone. Through a common friend I finally managed to arrange it.
“He lived in Delhi those days and I remember meeting him and we spoke a lot about cricket. I asked him so many questions about captaincy and also about batting. But one of the things that I came away from that meeting was the sheer lack of bitterness that Pataudi must have felt,” Dravid said in Mumbai on Friday at the launch of the book Courage Beyond Compare.
The book written by Sanjay Sharma and his daughter Medini chronicles true life stories of ten ‘differently abled’ sporting icons who have all brought huge laurels for the country. These ten include Tiger Pataudi, Rajeev Bagga, Malti Holla, Devendra Jhajharia, among others.
Dravid further added that the meeting with Pataudi had given a few valuable lessons, which has stayed with him since.
“I walked away from it thinking here was a person who till 21 was recognised in England as one of the most exciting young talents there was in English county cricket at that point. I was in England recently and this conversation came up about Tiger Pataudi and the English journalists there were telling me if Tiger Pataudi hadn’t had the accident, all the Indian cricket records, the batting records probably would all be in his name today. Some of the lessons I learnt as a young 24-year-old starting out in international cricket was the sheer lack of bitterness. When you have a lot of problems, a lot of issues and you complain about a lot of things as the sportsmen always do or tend to do I would always remember this. I remember how someone who had the opportunity till 21 to become one of the greatest cricketers in India in a country that was cricket crazy. That was taken away from him but there was no sense of bitterness about it at all and for me that has stayed with me,” he said.
Pataudi’s daughter and Bollywood actress Soha Ali also spoke on her father’s courage, which inspired him to continue playing despite the eye injury.
“He, infact, would never speak about his accident. He got very annoyed whenever you asked him about so through this book I have got to understand what he might have gone through. I cannot image at the age of 20-21 seeing your dreams shattered before your eyes. I cannot imagine how he found the will to fight on and play international cricket. He had an average of 35 and people say that he could have had maybe an average of 75 if he had both his eyes,” she said.
“I, of course, would always tell him that instead of being one of the great cricketers to have made so much runs, it would be so much cooler to be the only one-eyed cricketing legend,” Soha added.
Image: Soha Ali Khan Pataudi
Photograph: Abhijit Mhamunkar