(ESPNCricinfo) Ajit Wadekar, who led India to historic series wins in the West Indies and England in 1971, has died at the age of 77. He had been suffering from a prolonged illness.
Wadekar, an aggressive left-hand batsman and an excellent catcher in the slips, played 37 Tests, scoring 2113 runs at an average of 31.07. His one century, a match-winning 143 at Wellington, came during India’s 1967-68 tour of New Zealand, where they won a series away from home for the very first time.
It was a time when India, led by Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, were growing into a genuine force in world cricket. And it was Wadekar who, with Pataudi sitting out the tour of the West Indies in 1970-71, took over the captaincy, thanks to the casting vote of Vijay Merchant, the chairman of selectors.
Fuelled by the batting exploits of Dilip Sardesai and the debutant Sunil Gavaskar, India would go on to clinch a 1-0 victory over Sir Garfield Sobers’ side. When they followed that up with another 1-0 win in England, inspired by BS Chandrasekhar’s 6 for 38 at The Oval, many considered India unofficial world champions.