India has seen many great Test captains in their chequered history and Mansur Ali Khan is one of them. Under his captaincy India may not have a great win%, but his skills as a skipper was something which caught the eye of everyone. At the age of 21, under dire circumstances Mansur Ali Khan also known as Nawab of Pataudi Jr made his captaincy debut in the third Test match against a full-fledged West Indies side that comprised of Sir Frank Worrell, Rohan Kanhai, Sir Garry Sobers, Wes Hall and Lance Gibbs.
Born into the royal family of Nawabs, Mansur Ali Khan was a champion batsman from his schooling days. He captained his school team in 1959 scoring 1068 runs and broke a school level record that was held by Douglas Jardine in 1919 when he made 997 runs. He made his first-class debut for Sussex in 1957 against Worcestershire and managed only 23 runs in the lone match he played that season. Also, at the age of 16 he played for the Oxford University team and was the first Indian captain there.
In 1961, a tragedy happened as Mansur Ali Khan met with a fatal car accident and lost sight of his right eye permanently. There was a fear that the damage to his eye would end his cricketing career, but Pataudi Jr hit the nets learning to play with one eye.
In July 1961 he was nursing his eye and in December he was set to don the Indian whites as he had earned his maiden call-up for the England tour of India. He played a crucial role to clinch the series, which was the first against England in Tests for India. He scored a half-century in the 2nd Test match and in the next game his century in the first innings was the highlight. His next tour was against the mighty West Indians and in just his 2nd series was named as the vice-captain.
Destiny had different plans for Mansur Ali Khan though as he was set to become the Indian skipper after the sitting captain Nari Contractor was struck a fierce blow on his head by Charlie Griffith in a tour match before the 3rd Test. Just three-Tests old into his career and at the young age of 21 years and 77 days, Mansur Ali Khan became the youngest Test captain ever. The record stood close to 40 years until Tatenda Taibu from Zimbabwe led his side at 20 years and 358 days against Sri Lanka in 2003. However, Mansur Ali Khan still remains the youngest Indian Test skipper.
For most matches in his career, he led the team, to be precise in 40 off his 46 matches. Under his captaincy, India went on to record their first away victory against New Zealand in 1968, eventually they won the series as well, which also was the first time India had been victorious in an away series. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi won 9 out of the 40 matches he captained India, he also was the first Indian skipper to win more than 5 matches. His record was intact till Mohammad Azharuddin went past him and registered 14 wins for India.
However, he was well renowned for his captaincy rather than his batting. He had 2793 runs at an average of 34.9 in the 46 Tests he played with 6 centuries and 16 half-centuries. His highest score of 203* is the first double century by an Indian captain in Tests.
Though he didn’t have a great start to his captaincy career as India lost the series 0-5 against West Indies in 1962, as the years passed he became one of the erudite captains India ever had. The year 1962 was a great one for him as he won the Indian Cricketer of the Year award and in 1968 he won one more prestigious award when he was named the Wisden Cricketer of the Year.