Ajit Wadekar has died at the age of 77 in his native city of Mumbai. The former batsman and chief selector of India’s cricket team had been sick for some time. Zee News reports that the sad news of Wadekar’s death first broke on August 15 but it’s not clear on what date he passed away. An official cause of death has not been made public. The Indian Express reports that the left-handed batsman died in Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital.
Wadekar made his debut for India in 1966 against the West Indies in his home city, having made his first-class debut for Bombay in 1958. His international career lasted until 1974. Wadekar typically batted at number three. His retirement in 1974 came after a disappointing team performance, with Wadekar as captain, during a tour to England. Three years earlier, Wadekar had led India to their first ever victory over England. During his career, Wadekar achieved a total of 2113 runs during his career for India, which spanned 37 Test matches and two one-day internationals.
The Times of India reported in March 2012 that Wadekar’s cricket career began by chance. While a student at Elphinstone College, Wadekar was studying to become an engineer at his father’s behest, Wadekar met fellow Indian cricket legend Baloo Gupte. Gupte asked Wadekar to come along and make up the numbers at a match he was playing in that afternoon. The feature concludes with the words, “Destiny is a powerful word but in the case of people like Ajit Wadekar, it becomes the only explanation. All we can say is, “Thank God for such bus rides!”
Indian journalist Rajdeep Sardesai broke the news on Twitter writing, “Very very sad news: the iconic former Indian cricket captain Ajit Wadekar is no more. Sir, will miss you ! RIP.” A follow-up message paid tribute to Wadekar saying, “The year 1971: the year of Sam Manekshaw, Indira Gandhi, Rajesh Khanna, and Indian cricket. As captain of the victorious team, Ajit Wadekar was the man who became the face of Indian cricket’s first major overseas triumph. RIP.” The Time of India’s headline after India’s Wadekar inspired victory over England read, “India’s Finest Hour.”
Current India batsman Suresh Raina also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Wadekar saying, “Extremely saddened by the news that former Indian cricket captain #AjitWadekar is no more. He led India to many historic victories! My condolences to the friends & family! RIP Sir, you will always be missed!”
During the 1990s, Wadekar became one of the few Indian players to represent the country as a Test player, captain, coach and the chairman of selectors. In 1972, Wadekar was awarded India’s fourth highest civilian honor, Padmashri. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a statement after news of Wadekar’s passing spread, “Ajit Wadekar will be remembered for his rich contribution to Indian cricket. A great batsman & wonderful captain, he led our team to some of the most memorable victories in our cricketing history. He was also respected as an effective cricket administrator. Pained by his demise.”