His Test career spread over 15 years, playing 46 Tests and scoring six centuries, also captaining the side for a good eight years - all this while playing with one normal eye. A car accident, just six months before his Test debut, put his dreams for playing for the country in jeopardy. The dazzling young right-hander was left with a severely impaired right eye. But, as Pataudi himself said once in an interview to the 'Times of India', "I lost my eye. But I didn't lose sight of my ambition.". These words can be uttered only by a true champion, a confident sportsman.
He was a very fine middle order batsman, never afraid to come out of the crease and play lofted shots against the spinners. Not only this, he was a superb fielder too. Fielding, in India, was not given much importance. But Pataudi showed us how saving a few runs here and there was also an essential part of the game. But more than all of these, he was a wise captain. Pataudi was thrust into captaincy, when he was just three tests old, after the then Indian skipper Nari Contractor, got injured by a West Indian bowler delivery, that almost killed him. Pataudi, thus became the youngest ever captain in world cricket. Under him, India won their first away series ever, against New Zealand, defeating them 3-1 in 1967-68. That was a proud moment in his career, and a proud moment in India's long cricketing history.
Also, under his tutelage, the famous Indian spin quartet of Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bhagwat Chandrashekar and Bishen Singh Bedi, honed their craft, and paved the way for future Indian successes. Fellow Test cricketer and a dear friend of Pataudi, Abbas Ali Baig says, "He was a bowler's captain. And he was always cool under pressure.". This might come as a surprise to many, since he himself was a batsman, but then, that is why he is considered as one the greatest skippers. Mihir Bose, the author of 'A History of Indian Cricket' writes, "He brought the prospect of victory, often unexpected victories, and his captaincy had an element of daring, at times maddeningly unpredictable.".
Pataudi was a rare combination of dashing looks and substance. He exuded style off the pitch too. His romance and subsequent marriage to Hindi movies' actress Sharmila Tagore, still remains one of the greatest union of glamour and sports. The last Nawab of the erstwhile Royal family of Bhopal, he had done his schooling in England and had played cricket for the Oxford, and this, made him look like an 'outsider' in the Indian scheme of things. But he ensured that this characteristic of his would never come in between his love for the game, and more importantly, love for his country.
For a short while, Pataudi also dabbled in politics, but lost heavily there. He, though, had a successful innings with the 'Sportsworld' magazine. He played his part in the Indian cricket administration, as a commitee member of IPL. He also appeared in advertisements, with his son, Saif Ali Khan, who played cricket in his early days, but followed his mother's footsteps and acted in Hindi movies. Just have a look at those ads and decide for yourself- who is the better looking star, the father or the son?
Everyone always wondered and will keep wondering, how much this great sportsperson would have attained if he had never had that accident. We are never going to get that answer, but Pataudi is always going to remain an enduring icon, an amazing inspiration for all those people, who want to make a mark in the society, without getting bogged down by life's unpredictabilities and handicaps.
We all hope for The Tiger's soul to Rest in Peace.