Former Indian skipper Ajit Wadekar passed away at the age of 77 on Wednesday after fighting an improbable battle with prolonged illness.
Remembering his legacy, former Indian skipper Bishan Singh Bedi has fondly remembered the moments he shared with him. n his column for the Times of India, Bedi wrote, "All of us cricketers from Delhi and North Zone are grateful to the late Ajit Laxman Wadekar for inadvertently passing on Bombay's (as it was called then) fighting qualities to us. Not terribly deliberately, of course, but when we were contemporaries - playing for and against each other - I would like to think that my personal belief in Delhi and North Zone went up manifold by rubbing shoulders with India's finest left-handed batsman of our times."
Ajit Wadekar was the most affable Bombay player in the Indian dressing room. When we toured England in '67 and then Australia and New Zealand in '68 and '69, Ramesh Saxena and myself would often talk about Ajit with growing fondness. Subsequently, Hanumant Singh joined our exclusive club of ALW admirers. I think our State Bank of India comradeship was fairly chirpy and helpful, till a casting vote transported Ajit to the realms of Indian captaincy. It all appeared to have happened pretty rapidly. I'm not very sure if Ajit himself was prepared for the moment, but he grabbed it with both hands," Bedi wrote.
Bedi then wrote about Wadekar's midas touch as he inspired India to win overseas against England and the West Indies in 1974. "Much to the delight of Indian cricket, Ajit had the vital Midas touch to go on and record historic first-ever Test series wins in the Caribbean and then in England, followed by a home Test series victory against England. It all happened briskly enough to make Indian fans and the media - quite oblivious to some of the ingrained shortcomings that our team might have had at that time - simply delirious. Well, come the '74 tour of England, we were thoroughly exposed. Indians have seldom taken defeat kindly, so it was to be Ajit Wadekar's turn for a sudden exit from international cricket when honestly he still had much more to offer, as a player if not as captain," Bedi added.
"Much as I admired Ajit's batting, and cricketing prowess, I reckon he allowed too many intrigues of the Indian cricket board (BCCI) to overpower him. A genuinely good and honest cricket soul was made to bite the dust way ahead of his time. Even so, the hat-trick of series wins under his captaincy was the hallmark of his career. Till today, the BCCI has not felt the need to honour the Wadekar-led team which won three series in a row. This is one debate we would often indulge in, and only end up making Ajit more irksome," Bedi further opined.
"Whenever we clashed on the domestic scene, we were staunch enemies. It may have had something to do with my personal envy of Bombay's great cricket culture. We tried to emulate them, but only just! Thanks to men like Ajit Wadekar, Bombay's cricket roots run very deep and will continue to bear fruit. Ajit missed the MAK Pataudi Lecture in Bengaluru, and I sensed something was amiss. He would WhatsApp regularly, but soon that stopped. My apprehensions grew when at the last moment he withdrew from our 'Tribute to Tiger' cricket night in Delhi. Well let's face it, we are in the 'mandatory overs' of our lives and there is no DRS facility available. Rest in peace, Ajit Laxman Wadekar. You have done India proud," Bedi concluded.