During the most beautiful hour of India in England in the summer of 1971, when the boys of Ajit Wadekar performed the task of chasing the 173-run goal and successfully completing history, the captain had fallen asleep in The Oval changing room.
He had to be awakened by the cricket manager of England, the legendary Ken Barrington with the words: "It's all over, the match is yours and they'll want you up there on the balcony."
The champagne flowed endlessly and Wadekar became the first Indian captain with two back-to-back overseas test series, which led India to a 1-0 victory. match series in the West Indies earlier that year, a series in which Sunil Gavaskar made his international debut with a record of 774 runs.
To the extent that the tour in 1971 in England was the Indian overseas and Wadekar & # 39; s, the next overseas series of the country, a series of three matches, also in the Old Blighty three years later saw the stylish left-handed a low point. As a captain he saw India suffer 0-3 loss in the three-test series, putting an end to a glorious 37-Test career that saw him score 2,113 runs and average 31.07 with only a century and 14 half-centuries . Wadekar was also one of the most beautiful slipcatchers.
Wadekar will forever be remembered for leading the country to its first overseas victories in the West Indies and England, and has often overshadowed the 3-1 victory in the test series under Tiger Pataudi in New Zealand, the first rubber triumph from the nation outside. Wadekar, who succeeded Pataudi as captain and later gave the baton back to him, had a solid hand in India's first overseas victory, in Dunedin, when he won in both the exhibition halls and India and India as 80 scored by 5 wickets , ending India & # 39; s 17 overseas test defeats.
It was in that series that Wadekar scored his only Test century – 143 in Wellington, the only three-digit score in the game that won India with 8 wickets. the kind of care that Wadekar had in his cri The career of Cette, direct from his university (Elphinstone College and later Ruia College), days – scoring big tons and continuing that in the Ranji Trophy scene, it came as a shock that only one in Tests came from the 36 first-class centuries of Wadekar
Wadekar was loved by everyone. The youth in his team looked at him for inspiration and encouragement, the biggest beneficiary of them was Sunil Gavaskar. It is well known that Wadekar was aware of his appointment as an Indian captain while returning from shopping for his new flat on a winter December evening when a handful of journalists and benefactors brought him the news. Wadekar did not have the support of all selectors and was elected captain with the deciding vote of the chairman Vijay Merchant.
In the foreword to the book & # 39; Ajit Wadekar, My Cricketing Years & # 39 ;, published in 1973, Merchant wrote: "When he was further informed that it was by the decisive vote of the President that he was appointed as a captain, it made him very sad because as a new captain he would take an Indian team for the first time on tour, he would have liked 100% support from the selectors – not just 50 percent. "Wadekar used the powers of his captain to include some players from Bombay whom he trusted for support and performance. He received tremendous support from a senior in Dilip Sardesai, who also brought his career to life in the West Indies, and became known as the Renaissance man of Indian cricket.
One of Wadekar's popular anecdotes of that trip in the West Indies closes Gavaskar. in the toilet to keep him away from the rival captain Garry Sobers. Westerek said at one of the Cricket Club of India & # 39; s Legends Club meeting in his typical way to tell stories, enchanting the audience: "Every morning of the Tests, Sobers would come to our locker room, say hello to the team and Sunil got lucky when he went through a meager patch, he would say & # 39; let me touch Sunny for luck, moon & # 39; and would continue to score a century.
"In the fifth test in Trinidad came Sobers to our dressing room and spoke with us. By this time I had locked up Sunil, who had to get up to resume his turns, on the toilet. Sobers came, spoke for a few minutes and went back without touching Sunil. Sunil told me: "So if he did not touch me in the locker room, he could hit me on the floor before he hit & # 39 ;. My answer to him was: & # 39; No, no, he is lucky by touching you in the locker room & # 39 ;. Sobers, that day, was whipped by Abid Ali to a first baleend! Sobers, assessed in his autobiography Sobers – Twenty Years at the Top & Wadekar as the "sharpest" among rival captains.
Wadekar was perhaps India's first captain to to win overseas tests in the West Indies and England, but he was a skipper who took the first approach to safety. "His players have said on different platforms that Wadekar first played with the mindset to sign the test, and if the chances to win, he went for the kill, he played for the team's strengths, which was spin, and was well served by the spider quartet of BS Chandrasekhar, EAS Prasanna, Bishan Singh Bedi and Srinivas Venkataraghavan.
In his second period with the Indian team, as coach, Wadekar conducted a successful cooperation with Captain Mohammad Azharuddin, he played Tests with spinners at home and he emerged victorious.Wadekar gave his all for the good of the Indian cricket, and m especially Mumbai cricket. Until his last breath, he served the Mumbai Cricket Association as chairman of his Cricket Improvement Committee, although health did not allow him to attend some of the last few meetings.
Such a Wadekar persona is that he has not let others know more about his illness in recent times, and still attended a number of social gatherings, although he could not hide that he was becoming weak. Westerek was brilliant at academics and had a technical career in anticipation of him, took a cricket in his life and made the most chances, a number of historical victories came over as captain. He climbed high in his banking career after his playing days, and inspired many younger generations.
During his stint at the cricket manager of India (as the bus was called in those days) in the early '90s and then as the president of selectors, Wadekar was an institution in itself. Not only in Mumbai, but in Indian cricket. Contrary to many reports that Wadekar succumbed to cancer, his brother Ashok confirmed to the DNA that his 77-year-old brother or sister had to go to bed for the last time on Wednesday night because of a heart attack, never to wake up again.
And there was no Barrington this time to whisper "It's all over" in his ears.