Mumbai, August 15 (Indian Express): Former India Test captain Ajit Wadekar, who led the country to its first Test series win in England in 1971 passed away at the age of 77 on Wednesday after a prolonged illness.
He breathed his last at Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital. Wadekar made his debut in 1966 against the West Indies and went on to represent India in 37 Tests and two one-day internationals.
He is also one of the few Indians to represent the country as a Test player, captain and serve Indian cricket as a coach, and chairman of selectors.
Wadekar was honored with the Padma Shri in 1972.
As an aggressive left-handed batsman, Wadekar went on to score 2113 runs at an average of 31.07 in Tests. However, after making his first-class debut in the 1958-59 season (for erstwhile Bombay) he had to wait for almost eight years to receive his first international cap. His only Test century came against New Zealand in Wellington in 1968.
Wadekar’s last Test was against England in 1974. As India suffered a 3-0 loss during the 174 series Wadekar stepped down from captaincy and subsequently retired from international cricket. He made his ODI debut later that year but only played a couple of matches. He ended his first-class career with 15380 runs. He was an equally capable fielder in the slip cordon. Incidentally, Wadekar was also legendary India opener Sunil Gavaskar’s first Ranji and Test captain.
Prime MinisterNarendra Modiand several former Indian cricketers expressed their condolences on Twitter.
Epoch making Indian win in 1971
India have played some memorable Test matches against England in recent times but it was in 1971 when underdogs India rose above every challenge to cement a permanent place in the record books, wrote Rohan Sen in India Today on August 24, 2016,
Forty-five years ago, on this day, India registered its first Test victory on English soil which made the world sit up and take notice. Ajit Wadekar had just taken over the captaincy from Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi in January 1971 and led India to its first Test series win (1-0) in the Caribbean in April.
India then went on a three-Test tour to England with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath and Dilip Sardesai in their side. But it was the spin trio of Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwath Chandrashekhar and S Venkataraghavan, along with Erapalli Prasanna, who emerged as the heroes.
India dominated the first Test of the series, which ended in a draw, while rain came to their aid in the second match at Old Trafford, where they had to chase a mammoth total of 420. India ended up reaching 65 for 3 on the fourth day while rain took away the final day’s play.
With the series level at 0-0, both teams then met at The Oval in the final match. England were bowled out for 355 batting first, with Bedi and Eknath Solkar picking up 5 and 4 wickets respectively. In reply,
India made 284 runs as the hosts took a 71-run first innings lead. Chandrashekhar then starred with the ball for India picking up a match-winning 6-wicket haul to bundle out England for 101 in the second innings. He finished with figures of 8 for 114 in the match as India chased down the target of 173 with four wickets in hand to record a historic series win at the Oval on 24th August, 1971.
The three Indian spinners along with Prasanna took 197 of the 244 wickets to fall in the series. England came to the subcontinent the following year and found the spin trio too hot to handle once again on the spin-friendly tracks in India. The visitors were handed a 2-1 defeat in the subsequent five-match series with Wadekar registering his third successive series win as captain of the Indian team.