Ajit Laxman Wadekar
April 01, 1941, Bombay (now Mumbai), Maharashtra
August 15, 2018, Mumbai, Maharashtra, (aged 77y 136d)
Left hand bat
Left arm medium, Slow left arm orthodox
An aggressive left-hand batsman who became slightly bogged down by responsibility, Ajit Wadekar's name will forever be linked with 1971 when he led the Indian team to historic triumphs in the West Indies and England. Wadekar made his first-class debut in 1958-59 but had to wait eight years before playing for India in 1966-67, despite a string of big scores around the domestic circuit. But he took little time to establish himself in the Indian team and was a tower of strength to the Indian batting for seven years, playing scintillating or valuable knocks depending upon the state of the game. He was one of the best No. 3 batsmen in the history of Indian cricket and one of the finest slip fielders.
Vijay Merchant's casting vote as chairman of the selection committee ended MAK Pataudi's long reign as Indian captain and handed over the leadership to Wadekar in January 1971. He proved himself to be a capable captain, if not a shrewd tactician, and a combination of circumstances, and a fair share of good fortune, led to India beating West Indies and then England. A third successive series triumph over England, this time at home, followed in 1972-73 and Wadekar was at his peak as batsman and captain when he led India to England in 1974. What followed was anti climax. All three Tests were lost by margins that brooked no argument in what went down as the inglorious `Summer of 42'. Made a scapegoat, Wadekar was forced to retire, although a reluctance to spend time away from his young family would probably have led to him standing down whatever the outcome of the tour. Almost three decades later he renewed his association with Indian cricket as a successful manager of victorious Indian teams, striking a particularly good working relationship with Mohammad Azharuddin.
In 2007, Wadekar joined the ICL where he served as a match referee, but was released from his contract with the unofficial league and was granted amnesty by the BCCI in 2009.
Partab Ramchand June 2009
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