HomeCricketOh captain, my captain! Ajit Wadekar leaves behind a...

Oh captain, my captain! Ajit Wadekar leaves behind a rich legacy

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India’s one of most celebrated and respected cricketer of all time, Ajit Wadekar breathed his last on Wednesday, August 15, at the age of 77.
One of India’s best skippers ever, Wadekar donned several roles in his illustrious career. From grooming a young Sachin Tendulkar to winning India’s first ever away Test series outside the subcontinent, Wadekar was a rare gem to have graced the cricket fraternity.
Wadekar enjoyed a commanding presence amongst his peers and teammates. The sense of great authority made him stand out as a captain.
Back then, every member of the side always listened to what the skipper had to say. From Kapil Dev and Mohammed Azharuddin, everybody adhered to Wadekar when he became a coach.
Wadekar was suffering from a prolonged illness and was declared brought dead by the hospital. On Friday, his last rites were performed. Wadekar’s body wrapped in the tricolour, his cricketing cap placed on top was kept at his Worli residence for people to pay their last respects before the cremation. His body was taken to the Shivaji Park Gymkhana (SPG) in Dadar in Central Mumbai in an open truck.
Former India cricketers Vinod Kambli, Sandeep Patil, Nilesh Kulkarni, domestic cricket stalwart Padmakar Shivalkar and officials of the SPG and the MCA also offered their last respects to the departed soul. One of the best Indian skippers ever, Wadekar leaves behind a rich legacy.

Wadekar helped India win outside the subcontinent

Under his leadership, the Indian cricket team went on to script their first overseas Test series victory in England and the West Indies with a relatively inexperienced squad.
Wadekar was a real captain who knew the trades of the job and never shied away from it. He was all the players’ delight, especially the ones who made their debut under his leadership.
Some of the legends of the game made their debut under the captaincy of Ajit, Sunil Gavaskar, Bishen Singh Bedi and Gundappa Viswanath are prodigies who were groomed by the great skipper. The 1971 series against both England and the Windies ushered a new chapter in Indian cricket.
He led the side that included players like youngster Gavaskar, Farokh Engineer, Vishwanath and the Indian spin quartet of Bedi, E A S Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, and Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan.
Wadekar filled in the shoes of Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi as Indian skipper in 1971 and did a commendable job. He represented the side in 37 Test matches. The love and respect of players earned by Wadekar made him successful in the game as a captain of the masses.
Under the captaincy of Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai and debutant Gavaskar excelled with the bat and India went on to beat Sir Garfield Sober’s West Indies side to clinch the series 1-0.
After a successful Caribbean series, he went to England where his team defeated the home side, inspired by B S Chandrasekhar’s 6 for 38, at The Oval, to win the series 1-0. Wadekar also led India to a 2-1 win against England at home in 1972-73.

A look at the legend’s career

Wadekar scored 2,113 runs at an average of 31.07 in Tests. The swashbuckling southpaw used to bat at number three, became India’s first ever ODI skipper and played the format for just two games and retired from international cricket post that.
Wadekar scored a best of 67 against England in ODIs. He amassed 15,380 runs in First-class cricket with 36 centuries to his name. His ‘s first-class debut was in 1958, but he could make it to the Indian team only in 1966. He deservedly earned the reputation of being an aggressive number three batsman.
However, he had just one Test hundred in his record — a 143-run effort in Wellington — which came in the 1968 tour of New Zealand. The left-handed batsman ended his Test career with 14 half centuries, four of those being 90-plus scores.
A lot of pressure and responsibility saw him undergo a forgetful tour of England in 1974. The tour was coined as ‘Summer of 42’. Post that he also endured a horrific domestic campaign and that led him to resign as Indian team skipper besides quitting cricket altogether.
The England series in 1974 was his last.

Countries Matches Runs Average Highest Score 100s 50s
Overall 37 2113 31.07 143 1 14
Home 15 894 31,92 91 0 6
Away 22 1219 30.47 143 1 8
As captain 16 749 26.75 90 0 4
England 1971 3 204 34 85 0 1
WI 1971 5 151 21.57 54 0 1

The southpaw donned many hats

Wadekar donned many roles during his career. He served as captain, manager, and Indian team selector. He became only the third one to do so apart from former cricketers Chandu Borde and Lala Amarnath.
He was bestowed with the Arjuna Award in 1967 and India’s fourth highest civilian honour, the Padmashri, in 1972. The Mumbaikar went on to serve as India’s manager in the ’90s during Mohammed Azharuddin’s captaincy. In his tenure as manager, India had finished semifinalists at the 1996 World Cup.

Tryst with Sachin

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Sachin Tendulkar became the player he went onto become with Wadekar playing a significant role in his life. A young Sachin was guided and groomed alongside Kambli when the duo made their India debuts. It was under Wadekar that Tendulkar came on as an opener after having played in the middle-order for quite some time. The risk paid off and Tendulkar became one of the best opening batsmen in the format of all time.
Under Wadekar’s leadership, Sachin thrived in the 1996 World Cup. He ended as the tournament’s highest scorer with 523 runs. Sachin went on to hit a majestic 137 against Sri Lanka and also scored 90 versus Australia which was his two standout innings.
Sachin paid his last respect to Wadekar on Friday. “This is an irreparable loss. I will say it is a personal loss. People know Wadekar sir as a great cricketer, but I was fortunate enough to see him as a great cricketer as well as a wonderful person. For me, he was very important. Over the years our relationship grew stronger,” Tendulkar said.

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