Eye of the Tiger
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'Tiger' Pataudi may no longer be with us, but his legend lives on, in equal parts for what he accomplished, and the manner in which he did it. As the youngest Indian Test captain till date and, until Tatenda Taibu of Zimbabwe recently, the youngest Test captain in the world, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, fondly known as Tiger, fought off adversity of the most challenging kind, by simply refusing to quit once he lost the use of his right eye. In sports that require hand-eye coordination to the extent that cricket does, even the greatest of talents may find it difficult to overcome a debilitating injury like Tiger did. However, it took nothing away from his influence on the sport, and from his ability as a leader, captain, and fighter for Indian cricket. And he did it with the class and grace befitting one who came from royalty, and brought an element of pedigree to the concept of cricket in an understated manner.
One cannot fathom the obstacles he must have faced both within the team as well as in other circles as a 21-year-old captain of the national squad who would have had to not only earn his spot in the playing eleven, but was also required to win over the respect of his teammates, and lead them in a manner which defined that squad for all time to come.
It was his fighting instinct—after all, much like the composers of the classic fighting song 'Eye of the Tiger', his USP was that of being a survivor, and a spirited one at that. An apt song title and an apt depiction of the man behind the legend.
His statistics may not have appeared dazzling, either personally or as captain, but they mean little when taken into context. He changed the face of Indian cricket with his mindset and his flair and, in many ways, the aggressive and can-do belief that India displayed in the 1983 World Cup victory could trace its roots to the Tiger regime. And without delving too deeply into the what-ifs of sports folklore, it would be more than just mere speculation or idle fantasy to claim that he would have had a statistically more significant career had he not had the accident at the age of 20.
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