This article written by Mukul Kesavan (novelist, essayist and historian based in New Delhi) was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2004.
When I was growing up in the sixties, the Nawab of Pataudi Jr was more than my favourite cricketer; he was my hero. He was the captain of India in 1963-64, when MCC toured with a second-rate team led by MJK Smith. That was the first cricket series that I actively followed with the help of running commentary on All India Radio and pictures published in Sport & Pastime. Pataudi did nothing noteworthy either as captain or player. All five Tests were drawn, and the Nawab's contribution as a batsman was one double-century and not much more.
But it didn't matter. I knew about Pataudi before I began to follow Test cricket, in the way that I knew of Dara Singh and Milkha Singh. India was a brand-new country in 1957, the year I was born, and in its enthusiasm for mascots it fashioned heroes out of some pretty eccentric material. I knew, for example, that Dara Singh was India's first world champion and that he had got there by wrestling King Kong to the ground. This was a fact; the older boys I played gully cricket with had told me. Just as they had told me that Pataudi had only one eye.