A beleagured captain and a struggling leg-spinner got a new lease of life under his managership and no wonder former India captains Mohammed Azharuddin and Anil Kumble found a “father figure” in Ajit Wadekar, during their glory days in international cricket.
For Sachin Tendulkar, he was a “big influence” as maestro’s career changed once he started opening the batting in ODIs.
Wadekar, 77, passed away in Mumbai after prolonged illness.
“Deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Ajit Wadekar Sir. He was someone who was instrumental in bringing out the best in us during the 90s. We’ll always be grateful for his advice and guidance. Praying for strength for his family during this difficult time,” Tendulkar wrote on his official twitter page.
It was under Wadekar that Azharuddin, who was till then struggling captain, having lost Test series in New Zealand, England and Australia, got a second wind under him from 1993 to 1996. “such an iconic person..deeply saddened by his demise!! Sir was a father figure for me.. May his soul rest in peace! My Heartfelt Condolences to the family,” Azharuddin wrote on his twitter page.
For Kumble, Wadekar was Godsend after getting dropped post 1990 tour of England. His comeback coincided with Wadekar’s entry as manager during the 1992-93 tour of South Africa. He was never dropped during the next 16 years till his retirement in 2008. “Deeply saddened by the passing away of #AjitWadekar He was more than a coach to the entire team – a father figure and a shrewd tactician. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. He will be missed. Thank you Sir for the confidence shown in my ability!” wrote Kumble.
For Sanjay Manjrekar, Wadekar was a “tough character” as coach. In fact, Majrekar had tweeted a video of Wadekar in cricket gears one last time during a charity match at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana in Mumbai. “Ajit Wadekar’s impact on Indian cricket is immense. His contemporaries worshipped him, such was his aura. Found him to be a tough character as coach. Exceptional Indian cricketer… RIP Sir.”
The legendary Bishan Singh Bedi was magnanimous in his praise even though he conceded that they had differences of opinion on cricketing issues. “V sad news-Ajit Wadekar passing away-only Indn Capt to win 3 series in a row-2 away 1 at home-ALW was good contemporary-we had differences of (sic) opinion but always respected glory of (sic) Crkt-fine batsman & great close in catch-served Indn Crkt w/aplomb as player/Selectr/Coach-RIP Jeetu!”