He was the man who taught India to win cricket series on foreign soil, he was the man who showed what is aggressive batting, he was the captain who created histories for Indian cricket, and he was the man who introduced spinning tactics.
The former Indian cricket team captain Ajit Laxman Wadekar, who led India to maiden Test series win in England and West Indies, died at the age of 77, at the Jaslok Hospital in South Mumbai on Wednesday, after suffering a prolonged illness.
Though he only managed to play in just 37 Test matches he left an indelible mark on Indian cricket. His aggressive batting and incredible tactics using spinners led India to triumphs in England and West Indies in 1971. Wadekar also served as India’s manager in the 1990s when India was led by Mohammed Azharuddin. He was later selected as the chairman.
Wadekar made his first-class debut in 1958 before making his India debut in 1966. He played 37 Tests in which he scored 2,113 runs at an average of 31.07. His only century, a match-winning 143 at Wellington, came during India’s 1967-68 tour of New Zealand, where India won a series away from home for the very first time. He was also India’s first ODI captain, although he appeared in just two matches. Apart from his batting skills, Wadekar was also an excellent slip fielder.
Wadekar’s Tests and ODI record –
Milind Rege, who played for many years under Wadekar in the Ranji Trophy, said: “Wadekar was India’s greatest ever captain. He showed the Indian team and Indian cricket how to win a Test series overseas. That’s why he is the best skipper.”
Head coach Ravi Shastri said it was “a sad moment for Indian cricket”.
Wadekar was born in Bombay in 1941. His father wished him to study Mathematics so that he could become an engineer, but Wadekar preferred to play cricket. He was 77 and is survived by his wife Rekha, two sons and a daughter. His last rites will be performed on Friday.
With a heavy heart we bid adieu to Ajit Wadekar. The former India captain is no more. Cricketer, Coach, Manager and Chairman of Selectors – Mr Wadekar served Indian cricket in many different ways. pic.twitter.com/6zdFtleXB9
— BCCI (@BCCI) August 15, 2018
Deeply saddened by the passing away of #AjitWadekar He was more than a coach to the entire team – a father figure and a shrewd tactician. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. He will be missed. Thank you Sir for the confidence shown in my ability! 🙏
— Anil Kumble (@anilkumble1074) August 16, 2018
Ajit Wadekar’s impact on Indian cricket is immense. His contemporaries worshipped him, such was his aura. Found him to be a tough character as coach. Exceptional Indian cricketer… RIP Sir.🙏
Recorded this on my iPhone last Dec from Point in a friendly fixture. So glad I did. pic.twitter.com/XbdFGn4Izp
— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) August 15, 2018
So many memories of Ajit Wadekar. None more powerful than leading India to series wins in 1971 in England and the West Indies. Much admired, much loved. Page in Indian cricket and in our memories.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) August 15, 2018
Deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Ajit Wadekar Sir. He was someone who was instrumental in bringing out the best in us during the 90s. We’ll always be grateful for his advice and guidance. Praying for strength for his family during this difficult time. 🙏 RIP pic.twitter.com/coSyac73ot
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) August 16, 2018
Ajit Wadekar will be remembered for his rich contribution to Indian cricket. A great batsman & wonderful captain, he led our team to some of the most memorable victories in our cricketing history. He was also respected as an effective cricket administrator. Pained by his demise.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 15, 2018
He has received the Arjuna Award in 1967 and India’s fourth highest civilian honor, the Padmashri, in 1972. Sir Ajit Wadekar will always be remembered as one of the greatest legends of Indian Cricketing history.