Ajit Wadekar, Master Tactician, RIPAjit Laxman Wadekar, under whose captaincy India won two back-to-back overseas series in 1971, is no more. If Indian cricket can be divided into two distinct phases, it has to be pre-1971 and post-1971. In 1971, Ajit Wadekar was handed over the reins of Team India. His first assignment was the West Indies tour. The team won the five-Test series 1-0 against a star-studded West Indies team. Ajit Wadekar was credited with uniting a team of experienced but egotistic players and talented youngsters into a unit that did not give up easily. That series also gave India two stars in Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Vishwanath and reaffirmed the capabilites of Dilip Sardesai.
Next was England. England at that time was the best team in the world, not having lost in 24 Test matches. Further, there was the usual technical flaw of the Indians against the fast, seaming and moving ball. Most experts believed England would thrash India easily. But backed by solid batting from Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Sardesai and mesmerizing googly bowling by BS Chandrasekhar (whose inclusion in the team was called a calculated gamble by chief selector Vijay Merchant), India defeated the Englishmen by 1-0. It was Indias first series win in England and Wadekars captaincy was lauded by all. When England toured India in 1972-73, they were beaten again 2-1. But Wadekar captaincy ended on a sour note as India lost badly in the 1974 series in England, with the team getting out for just 42 runs in the second innings of the second Test at Lords. Wadekar retired from international cricket in disappointment.
It was during Wadekars stint as captain that the famed Indian spinning trio of Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Bedi, or quartet if one includes S Venkatraghvan, took roots. It was also during his time that Sunil Gavaskar made known to one and all that India could produce an opener who could score centuries on all grounds and in all conditions against the best bowling in the world. But more than that, Wadekar infused the team with a fighting spirit and made players believe that they could win overseas, something that India has not mastered even now. His was an immense contribution to Indian cricket.