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When Ajit Wadekar Led India to Their First Series Wins in Eng & WI

Here’s a look at India’s historic Test series wins in England and West Indies in 1971.

Updated
Cricket
3 min read
Captain Ajit Wadekar and leg-spinner Bhagwath Chandrasekhar wave to the crowd at The Oval after helping India win their first-ever Test series in England.
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Former India cricket captain Ajit Wadekar passed away on Wednesday, 15 August, after prolonged illness. He was 77 and is survived by his wife Rekha, two sons and a daughter.

The aggressive batsman was a trailblazer in Indian cricket despite playing a mere 37 Test matches. He led India to their first Test series victories in England and West Indies in 1971.

Wadekar scored 2,113 runs in his Test career, including one hundred, and was also the country's first ODI captain. Although, he appeared in just two matches.

India lost both those ODIs against England, which prompted Wadekar to retire from international cricket in 1974.

Here’s a look at India’s famous series wins in England and West Indies in 1971.

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India Conquer the West Indian Giants

When the Indian team travelled to West Indies in 1971, they were yet to register a Test win against them, let alone a series victory in their backyard. The visiting side were up against some of the greats of the game such as Sir Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai and Clive Lloyd. However, this time, there were players in the Indian team who could stand up to the challenge.

The visitors were down and out in the first Test when they were reduced to 75/5 in their first innings of the first Test. But then, Dilip Sardesai rose to the occasion with an incredible double century. He scored 212 off 470 balls to help India post a total of 387 runs.

With the ball in hand, it was time for India’s spinners to work their magic. Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bishan Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna picked up 9 wickets among them and bowled out West Indies for 217 runs. West Indies held on for a draw with a good batting effort in the second innings, but little did they know that they will have to deal with a new superstar in the next Test – a certain debutant Sunil Gavaskar.

The Mumbai batsman posted two 60-plus scores to help India win their first-ever Test against West Indies at Port of Spain. India went on to draw the rest of the three matches and clinch the series 1-0.

The scorecard of the second Test between India and West Indies.
The scorecard of the second Test between India and West Indies.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@mohanstatsman)

Gavaskar finished as the highest scorer in the series with 774 runs, followed by Dilip Sardesai with 642 runs. The spin trio – Venkataraghavan, Bedi and Prasanna picked up a whopping 48 wickets in the series.

India Take Down England

Four months after the end of the tour of West Indies, Indian cricket had another brush with massive success. This time it was against the creators of cricket in their own backyard. Prior to this series, India had won a Test series against England, but never done so away from home.

After drawing the first two Tests, India went into the series-decider at the The Oval. The home team got off to a good start by posting 355 runs in the first innings. India’s batting line-up couldn’t get going and eventually conceded a lead of 71 runs.

But thereafter, India’s Bhagwath Chandrasekhar took centre stage. The leg-spinner ripped through the English batting-order with figures of 6/38. England were bowled out for just 101 runs, leaving India to chase 173 runs.

India made heavy weather of the chase when openers Sunil Gavaskar and Ashok Mankad were back in the hut with just 37 runs on the board. Wadekar made a gritty 45 before getting run out. The skipper went back to the dressing room and fell asleep. India still needed 98 runs to win with 7 wickets in hand.

Valuable contributions by Dilip Sardesai (40), Gundappa Viswanath (33) and Farokh Engineer (28*) ensured that India get over the line with four wickets in hand.

As the celebrations ensued, the first captain to lead India to Test series wins in West Indies and England was in deep sleep. The England manager Ken Barrington woke the skipper and broke the historic news to him. His first words after waking up were, “I always knew we would win!”

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(With inputs from PTI)

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