The man who led India to their first series triumphs in England and the West Indies, died on Wednesday at the age of 77, the Press Trust of India reported.
Ajit Wadekar died at a hospital in Mumbai after battling a prolonged illness, the news agency said.
“With a heavy heart we bid adieu to Ajit Wadekar. The former India captain is no more. Cricketer, Coach, Manager and Chairman of Selectors – Mr Wadekar served Indian cricket in many different ways,” tweeted the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
The former batsman, who led India to triumphs in England and the West Indies in 1971, scored 2,113 runs in just 37 Test matches, including one century.
The year 1971 was a watershed year in Indian cricket, when the team notched up historic series wins over West Indies and England away from home. The man at the helm of affairs was the soft-spoken Wadeka.
Tributes poured in on social media for Wadekar, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailing him as “a great batsman & wonderful captain”.
“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.”, Modi tweeted.
Wadekar also served as India’s first ODI captain and as manager of the team during Mohammed Azharuddin’s tenure as captain in the 1990s.
“Sad at the passing of Ajit Wadekar, one of Indian cricket’s finest left-handed batsman and captain during the iconic overseas test victories in 1971 in the Caribbean and England. Condolences to his family and to the cricket fraternity”, President of India Tweeted.
Wadekar made his first class debut in 1958-59 before making his India debut in 1966-67.
After his retirement, he also served as the manager of the national team led by Mohammed Azharuddin in the 1990s. He later went on to become the chairman of selectors as well.
In his tenure as manager, India had finished semi finalists at the 1996 World Cup. He later went on to become the chairman of selectors as well. Wadekar is the only cricketer apart from Lala Amarnath and Chandu Borde to have served as captain, manager, and selector in Indian cricket.
But the feat that made him an icon was the Test wins in the West Indies and England. In a side that included the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, G Viswanath and Bishan Singh Bedi, Wadekar took over the captaincy from MAK Pataudi in 1971.