“Tough character and a father figure,” tributes pour in following Wadekar’s passing
Ajit Wadekar played an instrumental role in the careers of many Indian cricketers (Getty Images)

Following the sad demise of former India captain Ajit Wadekar on Wednesday, the Indian cricketing fraternity, including the likes of Mohammad Azharuddin, Anil Kumble and others have paid their tributes to their fallen mentor. Wadekar, who famously captained India to their maiden Test series wins in the West Indies and England in 1971, passed away after a prolonged illness at the age of 77.

Azharuddin, who captained India for the better part in the 1990’s, got a second wind under Wadekar’s tenure as India coach, took to twitter to express his grief.

“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,” Azharuddin wrote.

Kumble, who made his Test debut during the 1990 tour of England, too made his comeback to the Indian team during the 1992-93 tour of South Africa under the management of Wadekar.

“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!” Kumble tweeted.

Sachin Tendulkar, who established his dominance in world cricket, was also one to flourish under Wadekar’s tenure as manager. In his tribute, Tendulkar credited Wadekar for being a source that “brought out the best” in Indian cricket during the 90s. He turned Tendulkar’s career by making the batsman open the innings in ODIs during the tour of New Zealand in 1994.

“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. RIP,” said his tweet.

Former left-arm spinner Bishan Bedi was high on praise for Wadekar, and mentioned that although the two had differences, there was enormous amount of respect for one of Indian cricket’s finest captains.

“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!”

Sanjay Manjrekar, who is said to have shared a special bond with his one-time coach, called him a “tough character”.

“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,” said Manjrekar’s tweet.

Besides, India President Ramnath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the former cricketers in offering tributes to Wadekar.

Kovind, in his message, wrote, “Sad at passing of Ajit Wadekar, one of Indian cricket’s finest left-handed batsman and captain during iconic overseas Test victories in 1971 in the Caribbean and in England. Condolences to his family and cricket fraternity”.

Modi lauded Wadekar for his rich and immense contributions to Indian cricket.

“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.