Ajit Wadekar passes away: Master tactician with deadpan humour, the banker-cricketer pioneered India's surge as game's powerhouse

It’s little bit of an irony that former India skipper Ajit Wadekar, 77, passed away within the midst of India’s Take a look at collection in opposition to England. Their slip catching within the present collection has been so unhealthy that somebody remarked that champion former slip fielder should have died of disgrace.

In his e-book, Cricket, The Males and The {Game}, Tony Grieg, the late England skipper stated that the Indian group of his period was the perfect fielding group no doubt. He showered praises on the extraordinary close-in catching of skipper Wadekar at slip, Venkatraghavan at gully, Abid Ali at backward short-leg and the incomparable Eknath Solkar at ahead short-leg. He stated he hadn’t seen a catch go previous them.

Certainly, Wadekar was secure as a financial institution at slip and this impressed others to attempt more durable to match the skipper’s requirements.

BCCI President N Srinivasan presents the Life time Achievement Award to Ajit Wadekar in Chennai on 10 December, 2011. Wadekar handed awai in Mumbai on Wednesday. AFP

Wadekar, the left-handed batsman who made the India quantity three spot all his personal for quite a lot of years, was a street-smart cricketer whose affect on Indian cricket went means past his taking part in days.

For one, he rose very excessive within the State Financial institution of India hierarchy and used that clout to assist younger cricketers in a wide range of methods. On the identical time, he was acknowledged as an intensive banking skilled, who even when had not acquired in by sports activities, would have made a reputation for himself within the trade.

However for sheer eternal impression, it was the path-breaking Take a look at collection wins in opposition to West Indies in West Indies and England in England in 1971 that made him a legend.

He was controversially appointed India captain as an alternative of the charismatic Nawab of Pataudi for the tour of West Indies in 1971. Fellow Mumbaikar and chairman of the choice committee Vijay Service provider’s contentious casting vote settled the difficulty in his favour. He thereby inherited a group that was fiercely loyal to Pataudi. But he acquired them round to carry out brilliantly. Among the exploits of that group had been really magnificent and Wadekar was the catalyst that made it potential.

The back-to-back collection wins overseas stirred the creativeness of the nation like nothing else. Until then India had by no means crushed the mighty West Indies wherever, not to mention on their dwelling turf. Tales of how Wadekar floored Gary Sobers within the very first Take a look at when he walked into their dressing room and requested the West Indies to follow-on made the rounds for years. That Jamaica Take a look at had been lowered to a four-day affair after the primary day’s play had been rained off. The nice Sobers was unaware that the margin for follow-on for a 4-day match was 150 runs, slightly than 200. He was in disbelief and needed to repeatedly test the principles copy and with the umpires earlier than he reconciled to the ignominy.

Wadekar had the 4 nice spinners, BS Chandrasekhar, Bishen Singh Bedi, EAS Prasanna and S Venkatraghavan as his major weapons. Salim Durrani was his shock weapon and used sparingly however to devastating impact. Then there was that good bunch of close-in fielders who made rival batsmen extraordinarily acutely aware, nervous and cautious of their presence. His prime batsmen had been the younger legend-in-the- making Sunil Gavaskar, GR Vishwanath, Dilip Sardesai and himself.

Chairman of selectors Ajit Wadekar helms a selection committee meeting on 15 mArch, 1999. Reuters

Chairman of selectors Ajit Wadekar helms a range committee assembly on 15 mArch, 1999. Reuters

Wadekar’s group made the 2 collection in 1971 and the house collection in opposition to England in 1972-73 completely memorable with resounding wins. India had by no means gained three successive collection on the trot and the cricket-crazy public had been intoxicated with such unparalleled success.

Naturally, expectation ranges had been sky excessive. Thus when the group got here a cropper in England in 1974, the general public let unfastened their wrath on the skipper. India misplaced 3-Zero and the results of it left Wadekar a shattered man. He misplaced all assist and was hounded out of the group he led so gloriously for shut to a few years. He stop the sport in any respect ranges instantly.

I interacted many instances with Wadekar after he was appointed Indian group coach. I used to be a younger reporter and people had been the times when editors insisted that each copy must have quotes. We’d derisively check with this as ‘quote journalism’ with many senior journalists staunchly resisting it.

However a handful of us would meet Wadekar on a regular basis on that tour of Sri Lanka to get quotes for our despatches. That collection in 1993 was the primary in Sri Lanka after their president had been assassinated and cricket was performed amidst a 6 pm to six am curfew.

The Indian group and some of us journalists had been the one occupants of that closely fortified resort in Colombo, which meant getting quotes from gamers and Wadekar was not troublesome. However Wadekar was pleased to oblige on the floor itself and the way during which he did was a revelation of how guarded he could possibly be along with his feedback.

There have been two main points on that tour — a ball-tampering allegation in opposition to the Indian group and legality of Muttiah Muralitharan’s bowling motion. He parried each points successfully, throwing the onus on the reporters: “You had been all keenly watching the match. So you realize that it was not finished,” he stated of the primary. Of the chucking, he was simply as subtly evasive: “You might be watching the Take a look at from an excellent vantage level. You recognize what’s occurring.”

It was not troublesome to see why Wadekar rose so excessive in SBI ranks, the best ever by a sportsman. He was diplomatic, however agency; exact however non-committal along with his statements. Above all, Wadekar had a deadpan look even when he cracked a joke. Few might make out whether or not he was offended or pleased! Nothing, his phrases, tone or physique language gave him away. This most likely contributed to his success as skipper.

His tenure as coach-cum-manager ran from the historic collection in opposition to South Africa in 1992 until the conclusion of the World Cup at dwelling in 1996. He additionally served as chairman of choice committee for some time.

Wadekar will lengthy be remembered for instilling satisfaction and self-belief within the Indian group. The three collection wins in a row — two overseas and one at dwelling — had been most likely the approaching of age of Indian cricket. Really, Wadekar was the pioneer of India’s surge for cricketing excellence. He will likely be missed.

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