Cricket News

Remembering Ajit Wadekar: Indian Cricket's Renaissance Man

Written By Dylan Dsouza | Mumbai | Published:

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  • Former Indian cricket team captain and coach Ajit Wadekar passed away after suffering from prolonged illness at the Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai on Wednesday
  • Ajit Wadekar will be remembered for leading Team India to historic series win in England and the West Indies in 1971

If you would ask the current generation of fans to rank the best moments of Indian cricket, the answers would probably be: 1983 World Cup, 2011 World Cup etc.

Not many would venture down the memory lane and find out what was really the turning point of Indian cricket. That moment came back in in the summer of 1971 when India put to rest the myth of being bad travelers by winning two away Test series in the same year.

And the man behind this incredible feat was, Ajit Wadekar. Under his captaincy, Wadekar ushered in new era of Indian cricket by leading the side to two hard-fought series against Garry Sobers-led Carribean side and Tony Illingworth's led Three Lions side. Apart from that, he alsop guided India to 2-1 victory in a tightly contested series against Tony Lewis visiting side in 1972-73. 

Once Wadekar took over the captaincy duties from the legendary Tiger Pataudi, he led the side in his own style. The southpaw that batted at 3 was unfazed by the speed merchants. Known for his incredible composure at the crease, his silky batting skills were a spectacle for pundits and fans alike. During his playing career, was also among the sharpest catchers in the slips - boasting a record of 46 catches from 37 Tests. 

However, the man who provided Indian cricket its landmark moment, was a victim of poor handling by the country's sport governing body. He was axed from the squad following his poor showing with the bat, when India were whitewashed in England 0-3, which also included the famous 42 all-out. 

Ajit Wadekar enjoyed a successful comeback as he was appointed manager of the Indian cricket team in 1992. He formed an formidable partnership with Mohammad Azharuddin, who was the captain back then.

Unlike today, where captains are usually seen calling the shots both on the field and off it. Wadekar, who known to have devolved a disciplined reputation, ran riot as the manager. He is also famously known to have introduced the code of conduct  for the Indian cricket team, which became a talking point in 1993.

It was under his tutelage, that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Ravi Shastri, Anil Kumble, Kiran More, Krish Srikkanth, flourished and forged a new path for Indian cricket.

READ: Former India Skipper Ajit Wadekar Passes Away At 77

In throwback to his captaincy days, brought spin and close-in fielding back into focus. This fresh approach sterred India to famous wins in that golden phase from 1993-1995. However, his stint as manager ended in tears, after that infamous loss in the 1996 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka.

Wadekar returned to Indian cricketing scene as a selector and then as the chairman of selectors in 1998. But this was not as successful a phase as his stints as captain and manager had been.

Indian cricket owes him a debt for his instrumental contributions. Ajit Wadekar will always be remembered as the man who not only brought in a sense of stability to Indian cricket both as captain and coach, but also played a huge role in shaping its own identity on the world stage.

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