New Delhi: Ajit Wadekar, the former India captain, has been chosen for the CK Nayudu lifetime achievement award, the highest honour the Indian board can bestow on a former player. It will be presented to him early next month in Chennai.
Wadekar, 70, was captain during India's historic wins against the West Indies and England in the early '70s. He played 37 Test matches, scoring 2,113 runs at an average of 31.07 and 15,380 runs at the first-class level at 47.03. After his retirement, Wadekar was the manager of the Indian team on many occasions in the'90s.
"It's an honour, yes, but this is an honour which I owe to the people I played with," Wadekar told Cricketnext. "The success India enjoyed under my leadership wasn't down to me, it was about the team I had and the way we played. When we went to the West Indies and especially England, not many believed we could win. Our success owed much to the achievements of our bowlers and batsmen."
"What Sunil [Gavaskar], Dilip [Sardesai], [Erapalli] Prasanna, [Bishan] Bedi and Venkat [S Venkataraghavan] contributed to our success in the West Indies cannot be estimated," he said. "All the others chipped in. Similarly in England, all the players contributed. These were team wins, which gave me immense pride."
Assessing his own leadership, Wadekar, the first Indian captain to lead the team to series victories abroad, was typically humble. "I wasn't a great captain. I am no [MS] Dhoni or Sourav Ganguly," he said. "In fact, I never even expected to lead the Indian team to the West Indies in 1971. I knew my cricket all right, but I had a great team in the early 70's."
"I didn't analyze my captaincy too much. It was about utilizing your team's skills in the best possible manner on the field, which I did satisfactorily in the West Indies and England. Those were unforgettable years and I have so many happy memories from my playing days, and especially those two historic tours. I have to thank my former team-mates."
When asked about the current form of India's Test team, Wadekar said it was credit to the players for coming back strongly after the 4-0 whitewash in England. "Every team experiences hiccups and that's what the tour to England was. The conditions were very different from what the team experienced in the West Indies, and then they were coming off an extended period of limited-overs cricket. Plus there were the injuries. Teams cannot go on winning and now and then they need to be brought down to earth."
"Dhoni is a fantastic captain and he has really got the best out of certain players, perhaps more so off the field than on it. He has been an invaluable asset to India. He has come back well after the England tour and winning the series against West Indies was a big positive. India should forget about what happened in England and focus on the future, and invest in youth. A few promising players have debuted in this current series and that should be carried into the tour of Australia."
The CK Nayudu award comes with a trophy, a citation and a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh.