When Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi adorned his creams, he made batting and fielding look easy. Ironically, towards the end of his life's innings, he had to play the role of a grafter in Delhi -- far away from Leeds and Lord's, Brisbane and Barbados.
Through his death, at the age of 70, Indian cricket has lost a charismatic player, who virtually saved his country's cricket from the grasp of mediocrity in the 1960s. Cricket fans can never forget Ajit Wadekar's team that won Test series in the West Indies and England in 1971. But often, they either forget or are ignorant about the fact that it was Pataudi who led India to its first overseas series triumph -- in New Zealand, 1967-68. No Indian team, save MS Dhoni's squad in 2009, was able to triumph in New Zealand since then.
Despite his royal background, he was known to be a good mixer with his team members who came from different backgrounds. And when he wanted to be on his own, he used to sneak out and return, sometimes late into the night.
Yet, he was as fresh as the keenest member of the team the next morning. Despite losing his right eye in an accident, he batted in supreme fashion and left his teammates and opposition in awe. It is believed that cricket legend Sir Don Bradman walked into the Indian dressing room after Pataudi's 75 and 85 in Melbourne, 1967-68 and said: "I would have been proud to play like you did." Pataudi lit up the Melbourne Cricket Ground with a batting display achieved with one eye and one fit leg.
Sacked by Vijay Merchant's committee in 1970, he returned to lead India in the 1974-75 home series against Clive Lloyd's West Indies. India were two-down in the five Test series and Pataudi ensured the hosts overcame their rivals in the next two Tests. The tourists clinched the series with their win in the fifth Test at Mumbai, but the margin could have been a lot worse had it not been for Pataudi's leadership. It's a timeless leadership trait every Indian captain should internalise.