Cricket legend Ajit Wadekar dies at 77: A ‘personal loss’ for many cricketers

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Ajit Wadekar, who deployed his famous spinners to devastating effect and recorded historic series wins in the West Indies and England in 1971, passed away here on Wednesday. He was 77.
Ajit Wadekar, who deployed his famous spinners to devastating effect and recorded historic series wins in the West Indies and England in 1971, passed away here on Wednesday. He was 77.

Ajit Wadekar, who deployed his famous spinners to devastating effect and recorded historic series wins in the West Indies and England in 1971, passed away here on Wednesday. He was 77.

Failing health had restricted his movement and Wadekar was hospitalised in July too.

India’s greatest ever

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.”

Dramatic happenings at the selection committee meeting to pick the captain for the 1971 tour of the West Indies resulted in him being named skipper ahead of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

One of the five selectors did not turn up and the chairman of the then selection committee, Vijay Merchant, who had picked young players like Gundappa Viswanath and Sunil Gavaskar, used his casting vote to choose Wadekar.

He will always be known for the way he marshalled his spin resources, especially the likes of Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and S. Venkatraghavan who, between them, captured 48 wickets on the 1971 West Indies tour.

It was his tactical move to introduce left-arm spinner Salim Durrani which paved the way for the dismissals of Gary Sobers and Clive Lloyd in the second innings of the Port of Spain Test and eventually an Indian victory.

8 Interesting facts about him

1. If Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi had taught the team that they could win Test matches at the international level, Ajit Wadekar took that confidence on another level. Under his reign as captain, India creates history eir first ever Test series against England and the West Indies in 1971.

2. Apart from those historic wins, Ajit’s ability to help the Indian team draw Test matches from precarious situations and thereby win the series was something which set him apart from his contemporaries.

3. The big names of Indian cricket – Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Vishwanath, S Venkatraghavan and BS Bedi made their debuts under Wadekar’s captaincy and he helped each of them in the formative years of their career.

4. He managed to win a series with a team of the young and relatively inexperienced group against the mighty West Indies which was led by Garfield Sobers and had the likes of Clive Lloyd and Roy Fredricks in their ranks.

5. Wadekar instilled that self-belief in Indian cricket that winning just Test matches isn’t enough and the habit of winning consistently away from home is a challenge the Indian team should learn to look up to.

6. India’s greatest-ever batsman – Sunil Gavaskar had time and again hailed Wadekar as one of the greatest captains to have led the Indian Cricket Team.

7. Wadekar was India’s first captain in the limited-overs format (ODIs).

8. Wadekar is the only cricketer apart from Lala Amarnath and Chandu Borde to have served as captain, manager, and selector in Indian cricket.

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