Pune: Touted as one of India’s shrewdest captain, Ajit Wadekar passed away in a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday night. He was 77.
Remembered as the catalyst for guiding India to its first ever series win in England in 1971, Wadekar made his debut in 1966 against the West Indies. He went on to represent India in 37 Tests and two One-Day Internationals.
Former team-mate Chandu Borde remembered Wadekar as an astute captain and a perfect gentleman, who graced the field of cricket.
“I remember Ajit as a fine gentleman and an excellent leader. As an aggressive batsman, the bowlers would struggle to stop him. He was such a confident player. Being a left hander, it was a great advantage for the Indian team,” Borde said.
Borde talked extensively of Wadekar the captain, who often saw the unthinkable on the cricket field.
“Ajit had a sharp cricketing brain and could foresee a lot of things, which helped him during his captaincy stint. The way he maneuvered our spinners against England in 1971 was revolutionary,” Borde remembers.
Crucial knocks for India
Wadekar will be remembered for his gutsy knocks at the crucial number three position for years. He was also a great fielder in the slip cordon.
He took over as captain of the Indian team from MAK Pataudi and proved to be a good leader of men. After leading the country to memorable series wins in the West Indies and England, Wadekar oversaw another series win over England in 1972-73, at home.
After retiring from cricket, Wadekar also worked as coach/manager of the Indian cricket team during the 1990s alongside Mohammad Azharuddin. Under his tutelage, India became a force to be reckoned with in home conditions. Under his tutelage, India became a force to be reckoned with in home conditions. Wadekar was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1972.
He got Sachin Tendulkar to open the innings in ODIs and the rest is history. He was the first coach-cum-manager, who understood the need for man-management, trying to understand the psyche of each and every player separately.
One unique aspect about the man, who saw it all in cricket was, that he is of the only three cricketers who represented India as a captain, coach, and national selector. The other two are Chandu Borde and Lala Amarnath.
Mohammed Azharuddin, who was India’s captain during Wadekar’s tenure as India manager, tweeted: “#AjitWadekar sir .. such an iconic person..deeply saddened by his demise!! Sir was a father figure for me.. May his soul rest in peace! My Heartfelt Condolences to the family..” While former great Sachin Tendulkar credited Wadekar in bringing out the best in us during the 90s.
1941 Ajit Laxman Wadekar, was born in Bombay (now Mumbai)
1958 He made his first-class debut for Bombay
1966 He made his international Test debut against West Indies in Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai
1967 The Indian government honoured him with the Arjuna Award
1968 He scored his sole century against New Zealand in Wellington
1971 Wadekar was appointed the captain of national cricket team after Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi opted out of the West Indies tour.
1971 He was India’s first captain to register a Test series win in England and West Indies
1972 The Indian government honoured him India’s fourth highest civilian honour- Padma Shri
1974 He was India’s first captain in the limited-overs format(ODIs). He had played only 2 ODI and has scored 73 runs and his best ODI career is 67
1974 After a dismal performance of Indian Cricket Team, against England he just played one more first class match and took retirement from all form of cricket. He scored 2,113 runs at an average of 31.07.
1992 He was appointed as the coach for India’s historic tour of South Africa . He later went on to become the chairman of selectors as well.
1996 He quit as the coach after India exited the World Cup at the semifinal stage after losing to Sri Lanka at Kolkata.
2011 BCCI honoured him with C K Nayudu Lifetime achievement award
(Compiled by Ratnakar Detke, ST Library)