Jonty Rhodes: Ajit Wadekar was a game changer

Former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes reckons that the spontaneous outpouring of condolence messages for Wadekar was unique to Indian cricket.

Wadekar, who died aged 77, had led the country to its first-ever Test series triumphs away from home against the West Indies and England in 1971 to make the year a landmark one for Indian cricket. (File Photo)   -  The Hindu

“This is unique to Indian cricket, the outpouring of condolences and feelings for Ajit Wadekar. He was seen as a game changer in 1971, winning India’s first overseas (against the West Indies and England) Test. Australian, South African cricket or some other country will not understand this.

"In India, cricket is so much part of the people, hence the outpouring of feelings for Wadekar,” said former South African fielding great Jonny Rhodes, Brand Ambassador of ISUZU Motors here on Thursday.

Rhodes, who was Mumbai Indians’ fielding coach for nine years, said that India’s young cricketers of today are athletes comparable to international standards. “Of the ten best catches taken in the first three/four years of IPL, eight were overseas players. Now, majority of the best catches are taken by young Indians.”

READ: BCCI condoles death of Ajit Wadekar

Catching technique

The South African explained why Indian fielders had been putting down catches in the ongoing Test series in England.

ALSO READ: Wadekar started a new era, says Prasanna

“In a majority of cases in India, catches come at a height between the knee and ground and fielders take catches with fingers pointing downwards; in South Africa, Australia and England, players take catches at the slip cordon in reverse cup style with fingers pointing upwards. One can change the habit in four or six weeks of IPL, but they slip back to old habits after that."

ALSO READ: We have lost a father figure, say Azharuddin, Kumble

Rhodes also pointed at the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the first two Tests. “ These two were key to India’s performance in South Africa. There was a time when India’s fast bowlers were defensive; now they are aggressive and go for wickets.”

Responding to a question about how South African cricket has coped with A.B. de Villiers' retirement, Rhodes felt that South Africa must not look to replace AB with another AB. “You can never replace Sachin Tendulkar or a Virat Kohli. You cannot compare them. South African cricket should rely on its core strength.”