Tue | Nov 13, 2018

Former captain of India, Ajit Wadekar, is dead

Published:Friday | August 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMTony Becca/Gleaner Writer
Former Indian captain Ajit Wadekar (right) at a 2010 event in Mumbai, India ,with West Indies great Sir Gary Sobers (left) and Sachin Tendulkar, rated by many as India’s best ever batsman.

Ajit Wadekar, the man considered a lucky captain but the captain who led India to historic first victories over the West Indies in the West Indies and England in England, has died.

Wadekar died in Mumbai on Wednesday after a long illness.

A quiet, soft-spoken but witty man, and after winning a casting vote for the captaincy over former captain Mansoor Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, Wadekar arrived in the West Indies in 1971, won the series 1-0, and then proceeded to England, where he again won 1-0.

The victory in the West Indies was considered a surprise, especially after trailing Jamaica on first innings, after they were embarrassingly described as being no better than a club team, and after rain washed out play on the first day, India were tottering at 75 for five on the second day (the first playing day) of the first Test match at Sabina Park.

From there on, however, until 1973 when they also defeated England 2-1 at home, with Dilip Sardesai, Sunil Gavaskar, and Saleem Durani, Gundappa Vishwanath, Farokh Engineer, and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar batting and bowling brilliantly, and Wadekar himself catching everything in the slips, it was all India.

WELL-LOVED

In that time of Indian glory, Wadekar was known, and loved, as "the skipper", and "the captain", especially by Gavaskar, who it is reported, always preceded all his innings with the words, "see you later", to which his captain always responded, "not too soon, I hope."

The first Test at Sabina Park in 1971, India, playing without Gavaskar and Vishwanath, were in serious trouble when Eknar Solkar joined Sardesai, and together, they posted 137 for the sixth wicket, and were again in trouble when Prasanna joined Sardesai at 260 for eight, and together, they posted 122 for the ninth wicket, with Prasanna getting 25 and Sardesai finishing on 212.

That was the Test match in which the West Indies, after they were dismissed for 217, were preparing to bat again when Wadekar enforced the follow-on, reminding Garry Sobers, the captain of the West Indies, of the revised follow-on target due to the loss of the first day's play.

Rohan Kanhai went on to play the greatest innings of his career with a brilliant 158 not out.

Wadekar, who batted mostly at number three and scored 2,113 runs and one century, a memorable innings of 143 versus New Zealand in India's first away victory in 1967-68, in 37 Test matches, also served as national coach and chairman of the selection committee.

He will be remembered for leading, coaching, and selecting some of India's greatest cricketers, including Sardesai, Gavaskar, Vishwanath, Abbas Ali Baig, Durani, Engineer, Mohammed Azhuraddin, Kapil Dev, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and their four wonderful spin bowlers, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar, Serena Venkataraghavan, and Bishen Bedi.