NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led India on Friday in paying rich tribute to the country's charismatic former cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who died aged 70 following a lung disease.
"He was a dashing and daring captain, who brought a new confidence to the Indian cricket scene," Singh said in a condolence message a day after his death.
"Even after his playing days were over, he remained an iconic figure, an embodiment of poise and polish and a great advocate of sportsmanship."
Pataudi, nicknamed "The Tiger" for his superb fielding, played 46 Tests between 1961 and 1975, scoring 2,793 runs at an average of 34.91 with six centuries despite losing his right eye in a car accident in England.
"Tiger Pataudi was the most charismatic cricketer of his generation," said legendary former Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar.
"To bat with almost zero vision in one eye and still to score nearly 3,000 runs and half-a-dozen centuries in Test cricket tells you what a genius he was."
Cricket-loving Pakistanis also paid tribute to Pataudi, who was equally popular across the border for his grace and charismatic character, saying the death of the charismatic player left a void in the cricket world.
Former Pakistan captain and a contemporary of Pataudi, Hanif Mohammad said the news was a shock.
"I recently watched him on television and he looked great, but the sudden news of his death is a shock to me," said Mohammad, nicknamed "Little Master" for his batting in 1950s and 60s.
International Cricket Council chief Sharad Pawar, a federal Indian minister, said Pataudi was "one of India's greatest, most charismatic and flamboyant captains."
"He was a man of exceptional talent who turned out to be an inspiration to millions of cricketers, not only in India but across the globe," said Pawar. "It was an honour and privilege to have known him."
Pataudi was always credited with making India competitive and respected in world cricket during his illustrious career.
He did not have genuine pacemen at his disposal but shrewdly used the renowned spin quartet of Bishan Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan to put the opposition on the back foot.
"To my mind, Tiger Pataudi was the best thing that happened to Indian cricket from the time India got Test status. He was the first Indian captain to drill 'Indian-ness' into the Indian dressing-room," said Bedi.
"He was the best captain the spin quartet played under. He got the best out of all of us at various stages of our respective careers."
Sachin Tendulkar, the world's leading run-getter in both Test and one-day cricket, described Pataudi as a "hero" while prolific Indian batsman Rahul Dravid described him as an "inspiration."
"It's a terrible loss to the cricketing world. I had the privilege of meeting him on a few occasions. World cricket will miss a hero like him. I really respected him," said Tendulkar.
Pataudi led India in 40 of his 46 Tests, winning nine and securing the country's first series win abroad on the 1967-68 tour of New Zealand.
Former off-spinner Prasanna said Pataudi was a "dream captain" for a spinner.
"He changed the complexion of Indian cricket. He was the one captain who understood the strength (spin) of the Indian side and nurtured it," he said.