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Ajit Wadekar, former India captain, dies aged 77

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Ajit Wadekar, the former India captain who led them in their first victory in England in 1971, passed away on Wednesday, August 15. He was 77, and had been suffering from illness.

Wadekar donned many hats for Indian cricket over 40 years – batsman, captain, coach, manager – but is best known for leading the side to overseas series victories after replacing Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi as captain.

He led India to 1-0 wins in West Indies and England in 1971, in a period largely recognised as when India came to the forefront as a Test force. They were recognised as unofficial world champions.

Wadekar also led the side to a home series win against England in 1972-73, but the English were also the cause of Wadekar’s fall when in 1974, India lost 3-0 in England, and were infamously bundled out for 42 at Lord’s – still their lowest Test total.

He was sacked as captain after that tour, and promptly announced his retirement. He took over as India’s first official head coach in 1992, and oversaw a period of Indian dominance at home, including a 3-0 blanking of England.

As a player, he was an aggressive left-hand batsman, and was particular known for his excellent catching ability in the slips.

He played 37 Tests, scoring 2,113 runs at an average of 31.07, and though he scored just the one century in his international career, it was a match-winning 143 at Wellington in 1967-68 in India’s first ever overseas series victory in New Zealand.

He was also a significant force in domestic cricket. He scored 15,380 runs in 237 first-class matches for Mumbai, at an average of 47.03. He had 36 centuries and 84 half-centuries.

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