'An innings played with one leg and one eye'
The Nawab of Pataudi jnr scored six Test hundreds, but many considered his finest innings to be the 75 at the MCG in 1967-68. Coming in to bat at 25 for 5 on a green wicket, Pataudi needed a runner because of a pulled hamstring that had kept him out of the previous Test. Unable to play several front-foot shots, he made up by hooking. By the time he was dismissed, India's total had been lifted to 162. In the second innings, with India facing an innings defeat, Pataudi scored another half-century, and added 54 with the No. 10, Ramakant Desai. India lost by an innings and four runs, but Pataudi's 75 made it to No. 14 in Wisden Asia Cricket's list of the top 25 Indian Test innings.
KN Prabhu Pataudi's 75 was, as one observer termed it, "an innings played with one leg and one eye" in a thin drizzle on a dark day. To add to the handicap of his vision, he had also suffered a pulled hamstring, but he played stirringly despite these problems, in difficult batting conditions. One school of thought has it that Pataudi's and his team's struggles were partly of his own making, for he himself chose to bat on a pitch that was so green that I could only distinguish it from the rest of the ground because the grass had been rolled. But he did not have much by way of pace bowling, and he must have been hoping that his spinners would come into their own in the fourth innings. As it happened, his batting line-up fell around him on the first day, but he found some support from Rusi Surti, and as the day went on he proceeded to play some thrilling leg-side strokes, including several hooks. I remember Lindsay Hassett coming up to me during the game and saying, "That's the way Bradman used to attack the bowling."
KN Prabhu covered the tour of Australia for the Times of India
Ajit Wadekar I was lucky enough to watch Pataudi's first-day 75 from a very unusual vantage point: square leg, where I stood as his runner. We had lost the first Test in Adelaide, and the MCG wicket was supposed to be lively in the first session. But we didn't have the fast bowlers to make use of that, and maybe that prompted Tiger to elect to bat, a decision I am sure he went on to rue as the match progressed. As expected, the ball was swinging both ways under the clouds, and the Indian batsmen ran for cover against Graham McKenzie and Co. By lunch we were six down, and even 100 looked distant. Tiger was bravely waging a lone battle in the middle. He had suffered a hamstring injury in the first tour game and had been unavailable till the Melbourne Test. He was keen, I guess, to prove that his decision to bat was correct. And in that anger he started middling the ball, lifting it over the inner circle. He was not afraid at all, and in this way he put question marks in the bowlers' minds as to where exactly to bowl to him. With these unusual methods he pushed the team along from 47 for 6 to 162.
Wadekar top-scored in the second innings of the Test, with 99
Jack Fingleton Pataudi was an interesting study as captain. I always felt that he batted too low in the order, mostly at No. 6, and he advanced as the reason for this his leg disability. He thought, being unable to run sharp singles, that he would rob his best batsmen of runs if he batted higher, but such was his skill, such was the authority which came into the Indian innings as soon as he appeared, that, on balance, I do think he erred in not batting at least No. 4. Melbourne was a case in point. India made a woeful beginning, 25 for 5. Pataudi entered at this crisis, and looked a tragic figure as he walked in, dragging his injured leg. But, immediately, there came into the Indian innings character, intelligence and respectability. He showed first of all that he had a cool head and was not going to toss his wicket away. Pataudi played a glorious innings, taking the Australian bowling by the scruff.
From Fingleton's survey of the tour for Indian Cricket 1968
This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2004