Ajit loved to see me bat: Viswanath

He was my first Bombay and India captain and I will remember him fondly, says Gavaskar

Fond memories: Former cricketers Farokh Engineer, G.R. Viswanath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Syed Kirmani and Mohinder Amarnath at the Ajit Wadekar memorial on Wednesday.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

India’s original ‘little master’ Gundappa Viswanath held the audience in rapt attention while recalling India’s historic first Test win against England at the Oval in 1971 and Ajit Wadekar’s fondness for him.

Read: Chandu Borde remembers Wadekar's remarkable captaincy

It’s been a little over 47 years since India recorded the famous win on English soil, and Viswanath who played under Wadekar from the 1971 Test series in the West Indies to the 1974 series in England, paid handsome tribute to the former India captain at the BCCI-organised memorial at the MCA lounge on Wednesday. Wadekar, 77, passed away on August 15.

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Jogging his memory on the events surrounding the Oval Test, especially in the second innings, Viswanath said: “Ajit told me that he is not bothered about what I had done earlier and that he did not want to see me in the dressing room till the scoreboard showed the runs that had to be scored for victory. I did not know if it was a joke, as Sunny would say, or serious, and I did not know how to take it. He wanted to win the Oval Test badly.”

No boundaries

Viswanath scored 33 runs and was out when India was three runs short of the winning target. “I could not remember scoring the first 30 runs of an innings without a boundary hit, but here I made 33 without a boundary shot. Maybe because Ajit told me that I can do it in singles. He always used to call me ‘Vishayda’ and on that occasion he said ‘Vishyda, I want runs from you. There are others who are getting runs, but I want runs from you because I want to watch you play... I love your batting. I grew up watching him bat.

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“Even though I played against Bombay and wanted my team to win, I wanted to see how much Ajit scored. The amount of runs he scored before playing for India was unbelievable . He was selected to play for India very late. He played so easily, had no follow through, he just used to guide the ball. He is one of the best left-handers I have ever seen. Chandra always used to say: “I cannot bowl to him (Ajit).” He was amazing... I did not know whether he was defending or playing a stroke, the ball raced to the boundary. I will always miss him.”

READ| Gavaskar bids adieu to 'his captain'

Tremendous atmosphere

Sharing his thoughts through a video presentation, Sunil Gavaskar said: “We used to go to Ajit’s room during the 1971 tour of the West Indies. The atmosphere used to be tremendous... all talking cricket. He was not good at keeping time for meetings; he used to be late. He was my first Bombay and India captain and I will remember him fondly.”

Former India stumper Farokh Engineer said India and the cricket fraternity should celebrate the life of Ajit Wadekar. “I always used to call him ‘Jitya’ (nick name given to Ajit by Vijay Manjrekar). We had great rivarly... starting from matches played between R.A. Podar College and Ruia College and Àjit was the big difference between the two college sides. He was a great slip. The Mumbai Cricket Association should name a stand or gate after Ajit... maybe a street.”

Former India players, Madhav Apte, Vinod Kambli, Syed Kirmani, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath, BCCI CEO Rahul Johri, Ashok Wadekar (Ajit’s brother) and Prasad Wadekar (Ajit’s son) spoke at the memorial meeting.