The First Indian Captain to be Victorious Overseas
Ajit Laxman Wadekar was born in Bombay on 1st April 1941. His father wanted him to become an engineer but he chose cricket as his profession. He was a left hander batsman and made his first class debut for Bombay in 1958 at the age of seventeen. He got his test debut in 1966 against West Indies at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay. He played for nine years and retired in 1975. During his career, India played on only about five to ten tests a year. He was a one down batsman and a good slip fielder. He became captain of Bombay and also the captain of the Indian team later in 1970, taking over from Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.
Ajit Wadekar does not have much to show by way of statistics. He played a total of only thirty seven tests in his career, making 2,113 runs in all with just one century and a score of 143 against New Zealand. He impressed me thoroughly during the Australian tour of India in 1969 when he stood firm against the pace of Graham Mackenzie who was running through the Indian side with ease. But at Bombay and Delhi, Wadekar defied him and though Australia won the series 3-1, it was Wadekar and Viswanath who brought some respect to India’s batting. It was the saving grace for India. Wadekar actually helped India to win the test match at Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi. That was the sole victory in that series.
Ajit Wadekar changed the face of Indian cricket when he captained India during the historic tours of West Indies and England in 1971 and came back home victorious. This was the first major impact India had ever made playing abroad and taking the series convincingly. Let me endorse that he was the first Indian captain to get India series win on the overseas tours. He led India again to a 2-1 victory over England in India during the 1972 series. Abid Ali was in full swing during this series and troubling the MCC side that was led by Tony Lewis.
After a disastrous tour to England in 1974 where India was bundled out for a paltry 42 in one of the innings, he resigned from the captaincy and retired from first class cricket after the tour. But he had done his job by then. He made India taste victory abroad and made the world pay attention to India’s cricket potential.
Ajit Wadekar served as Manager of the Indian cricket team in the nineteen nineties with Mohammad Azharuddin as the captain. He received the tenth Mother Teresa Award at Calcutta for his contribution to Indian cricket in the early nineteen seventies by creating history in leading India to beat the mighty West Indies and England in 1971. This is a great landmark in the Indian cricket scene. On 4th March earlier this year, Sir Garfield Sobers felicitated Ajit Wadekar and his victorious team of 1971 after forty years at the Nehru Centre in Worli, Mumbai in a function to commemorate that memorable series when Sobers was the captain of the West Indies team. Wadekar deserves a place in the top four among twenty most influential and greatest cricket players of India because of his leadership abilities.