jit Wadekar was a great human with a large heart to accept humanity to the core. He was a legend in his own way. For others, he is just a Former Indian Test and One Day International Captain but for me, he was my mentor, guide, and a friend too. No matter what his age was, but he used to laugh like a teenager by cracking jokes on anything to everything. I used to bother him for selfies and he used to say, my wife will throw me out of the house if she sees me with a girl. That was just a joke but he always used to crack jokes on his female fans and his wife’s possessiveness. He was full of life. There is a saying — life is all about how you lived not about how long you lived! Yes, he lived his life to the fullest. More than a personal bond, he was the Guest Editor of my daily publication Afternoon Voice. He was a guide for my colleagues too. We lost one member of our Afternoon Voice family. I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death — they continue to participate in every act, thought, and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.
The left-handed batsman, who led India to the triumphs in England and West Indies in 1971, Wadekar later served as the Coach, Manager and the Chairman of the selectors for India. He not only mentored the budding cricketers but also gave all his time in mentoring handicapped cricket players. In spite of knowing that they have physical challenges, he not only trained them but also took them on various levels to compete and play. The aggressive batsman was an innovator in the Indian Cricket despite a mere 37 Test appearances. Wadekar scored 2,113 runs in his Test career, including one hundred, and was also the country’s first ODI captain. He appeared in just two matches, though. India lost both those ODIs against England, which prompted Wadekar to retire from the International Cricket in 1974.
Born in Bombay, Wadekar’s father wished him to study Mathematics so that he could become an engineer, but Wadekar instead preferred to play Cricket. He made his First-class debut for Bombay in 1958–59, before making his International debut in Test in December 1966, against the West Indies at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay. After that, he became a part of the regular team and went on to play 37 Test matches for India between 1966 and 1974, generally batting at number three. Ajit Ji used to say that playing Cricket was very tough in those days because it was not a game of money but a passion, “We all used to do jobs and play Cricket; these days, it’s an occupation like any other livelihood,” he said. Today, Cricketers are not only famous but also they are rich and he was very happy that Cricket became the richest sport in India and our country has many efficient players. He was a great fan of Dhoni and Kohli.
Wadekar took a long leave when he was appointed as the Captain of Bombay, and soon was made the Captain of the Indian Cricket team in 1971, leading a side that included players like Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Farokh Engineer, and the Indian spin quartet that included Bishan Singh Bedi, E.A.S. Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan. He became the first Indian Captain to achieve overseas wins while touring the West Indies and England in 1971. India won over five matches in West Indies in the early 1970s and then defeated England. He led India to a third successive series victory, beating England Cricket team again (2–1) in a five-match series in 1972–73. He said his fan following had grown by then and his female following was a rib-tickling experience. A doted husband never gave much time to his female fan club, as his wife was equally possessive about him. Wadekar continued to be the Captain of the Indian team that toured England in 1974. He represented India in its first ever One Day International (ODI) game during that tour. Batting at number three, Wadekar made 67 runs but still ended on the losing side. He scored 73 runs in his ODI career at an average of 36.50 with a strike rate of 81.11. Following India’s dismal performance in the series, he retired from the International Cricket. After that tour, Wadekar played just one more First-class match before retiring from all forms of Cricket.
Post-retirement, he served as the manager of the Indian Cricket team in the 1990s, alongside former Captain Mohammad Azharuddin. He is one of the few Indians to represent the country as a Test player, Captain, Coach/Manager and the Chairman of the selectors. Lala Amarnath and Chandu Borde are the only other players to achieve this distinction. In 1972, he received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour. More than these awards, he received unconditional love from the people and fans. There are many memories and much pain too, putting everything on the paper is just not possible! He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave.
May your soul rest in peace and loving memories last forever; I am at a loss for words during this sorrowful time. Please know that I am thinking of you and praying for your peace and comfort. Goodbye Ajit Ji.
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