In Ajit Wadekar’s death on Wednesday, Indian cricket lost a ‘father figure’.

Most cricketers from the Indian team that he managed in the 1990s looked up to him as a guiding force. For former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin, the passing away of ‘a gentleman’ was a personal loss.

“How do I describe him. He was a symbol of everything that was nice. Yes, he would sometimes take me to task but that too with a smile.

“At times, one could not make out from his smile if he was angry or happy. It was my fortune to have had Mr. Wadekar as the mentor of a team which was coming up with so many youngsters. I came close to him during the 1992-93 tour to South Africa when I discovered how well-read he was,” said Azharuddin.

Calming effect

In Azharuddin’s view, “Wadekar sir’s presence in the dressing room had a great calming impact during crisis. He made no needless demands of the players because he knew the strengths and weaknesses of an individual. Not for him needless sulking at a failure. He would always encourage us to learn and improve.”

Former India opener Navjot Singh Sidhu termed his death a “great personal loss”.

Sidhu was one of the many who gained from Wadekar’s cricket wisdom. “He was superb as a coach. He was actually an institution. He knew the game so well. I don’t think he was a task master because he was always for you. He had a personal equation with everyone. I will miss his splendid humour.”

‘Son’ of Wadekar

Vinod Kambli would call himself a ‘son’ of Wadekar. “I could joke with him. I could really get away with anything. He never scolded me. Always treated me with lot of compassion.

“He was a mentor to me and Sachin (Tendulkar) and I shall cherish the long dinners we enjoyed with Ajit sir. His love for crabs was legendary and we would make the most of it.

“Of late, we used to communicate a lot on WhatsApp until he took ill,” said an emotional Kambli.

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