Known throughout his cricket career as the Nawab of Pataudi Junior, a title abolished years later during Indira Gandhi's reforms, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi – "Tiger" or "Pat" to his friends – earned a special place in cricket history for his extraordinary success as a batsman after losing most of the sight in his right eye in a car accident in Hove, East Sussex, in July 1961. He has been described as "India’s greatest cricket captain" taking over the reins of the Indian team at the age of 21, barely months after the car accident. Pataudi died on 22nd September 2011 in New Delhi.
Pataudi was born in Bhopal, where his mother was the Nawab's daughter, but grew up in the white-walled palace in Pataudi, a province around 40 miles south-west of Delhi ruled by his father, Iftikhar Ali Khan, the eighth Nawab of Pataudi. Pataudi Jr. inherited a love of cricket from his father who had played three Tests for England before the war. He made a century on his debut at Sydney on the Bodyline tour during which he objected to Douglas Jardine's tactics and then led his native country in three Tests against England in 1946. He died while playing polo on his son's 11th birthday, and soon afterwards the new Nawab was on his way to England to continue his education.
Pataudi was educated at A.M.U Minto Circle School in Aligarh and then went to Welham Boys' School in Dehradun (Uttarakhand), Lockers Park Prep School in Hertfordshire (where he was coached by Frank Woolley), and Winchester College. He learned Arabic and French at Balliol College, Oxford.
Pataudi Jr., as Mansoor came to be known during his cricket career, was a right-handed batsman and a right-arm medium pace bowler. He was a schoolboy batting prodigy at Winchester, relying on his keen eyes to punish the bowling. He captained the school team in 1959, scoring 1,068 runs that season and beating the school record set in 1919 by Douglas Jardine. He also won the public schools rackets championship, with partner Christopher Snell.
He made his first-class debut for Sussex in August 1957, aged 16, and also played for Oxford while he was at university and was the first Indian captain there. On 1 July 1961, he was a passenger in a car which was involved in an accident in Hove. A shard of glass from the broken windscreen penetrated and permanently damaged his right eye. The damage caused Pataudi to see a doubled image, and it was feared this would end his cricketing career, but Pataudi was soon in the nets learning to play with one eye.
Despite his eye injury less than 6 months before, he made his Test debut playing against England in Delhi in December 1961. He found it easiest to play with his cap pulled down over his damaged right eye. He scored 103 in the Third Test in Madras, helping India to its first series win against England.
He was appointed vice-captain for the tour to the West Indies in 1962. In March 1962, Mansoor became captain of the Indian cricket team after the sitting captain Nari Contractor was ruled out of the Fourth Test in Barbados due to an injury sustained by Contractor batting against Charlie Griffith in a tour match against Barbados. At 21 years, he held the world record for the youngest Test captain until he was surpassed by Tatenda Taibu in May 2004. As of 2014, he remains the youngest Indian Test captain.
His positive style of captaincy sought to banish India's habitual inferiority complex. He set great standards by fielding and, realising India's lack of match-winning seamers put the emphasis on spin. India usually picked three slow bowlers under Pataudi and, against England at Edgbaston in 1967; the fabled spin quartet - Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan - appeared together for the one and only time.
His batting was understandably erratic but often he played an innings touched by genius. Leading India against the 1963-64 England side, he failed in his first seven innings of the series. Yet in the drawn fourth Test, at Delhi, he unfurled India's first double-century against England. One came at Headingley in 1967, when he made a scintillating 148; even better was his 75 on a green pitch at Melbourne in 1967-68. Playing on one leg because of a hamstring strain and coming in at 25 for five, he launched a stunning counter-charge.
Mansoor was captain of the Indian cricket team in 40 of his 46 matches, only 9 of which resulted in victory for his team, with 19 defeats and 19 draws. His victories included India's first ever Test match win overseas against New Zealand in 1968. India went on to win that series, making it India's first ever Test series win overseas. He lost the captaincy of the Indian cricket team for the tour to the West Indies in 1970-71, and did not play Tests from 1970 to 1972. He returned to the India side captained by Ajit Wadekar in 1973, for the Third Test against England, and captained India against West Indies in 1974-75, but was finally dropped as a player in 1975.
Between 1957 and 1970 Mansoor, following his countrymen Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji, played 137 first class matches for Sussex County Cricket Club scoring 3,054 runs at an average of 22.29. He captained Sussex in 1966. In India, he played first-class cricket for Delhi in the North Zone until 1966, and then for Hyderabad in the South Zone.
He was selected Cricketer of the Year in 1962, and a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1968. He published an autobiography, Tiger's Tale, in 1969. He was the manager of the India team in 1974-75, and referee for two Ashes Tests in 1993. He was later a member of the council of the Indian Premier League. In 2007, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of India's Test debut, the Marylebone Cricket Club commissioned a trophy for Test match series between India and England which was named the Pataudi Trophy in honour of his father, the 8th Nawab.
On 27 December 1967, Mansoor married Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore. They had three children Saif Ali Khan, a Bollywood actor, Soha Ali Khan, a Bollywood actress and Saba Ali Khan, a jewellery designer.