Sandeep Patil reveals why Ajit Wadekar was a master in man management
Sandeep Patil, who took over as coach after Wadekar, hails departed skipper for his contribution in making India a strong force during the mid-1990s
Sandeep Patil, who took over as coach of the Indian team from the late Ajit Wadekar, rued the fact that he didn't have the man management skills that Wadekar possessed which helped make India a stronger force in world cricket from 1993 to 1996.
After the series loss in South Africa in the 1992-1993 season, India were near-unbeatable in both formats of the game with coach Wadekar and skipper Mohammed Azharuddin in charge. It must be noted though that most of the cricket India played in that period was on home soil. The conclusion of Wadekar's term coincided with India being ejected by Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup semi-final at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. "It was Ajit who suggested to the BCCI that I take over and that's how I was part of the squad in the World Cup. It gave me an opportunity to observe how well he went about his job. He was a master in man management. In my time in the dressing room, I never saw him utter a swear word," said Patil, who was sacked six months into the job.
While Wadekar would sportingly accept when he was at the receiving end of some leg-pulling, he could also show his strict side. "After we won the World Cup quarter-final against Pakistan at Bangalore, a few from the team went out partying and Ajit was very upset. He insisted that we don't get carried away with the so-called euphoria of beating Pakistan. He wanted full focus for the semi-final which we unfortunately lost. The dressing room in Kolkata was a sad place to be in and Ajit kept his cool," recalled Patil.
"I developed my man management skills later, but at that time [in 1996] I wished I had some of Ajit's," said Patil. Wadekar was a part of Patil's life ever since he was a child in Shivaji Park. "My father [Madhusudan] captained Shivaji Park Gymkhana (SPG) and he used to get some players home for lunch during Kanga League games. Ajit, Subhash and Baloo Gupte, Ramakant Desai and Vijay Manjrekar were among those players who used to visit our home. I was in charge of the scoreboard at the Gymkhana, but I also remember occasions when I looked out of my window and saw all these greats walking towards my house with their spikes on. And when they entered the house, the sound of those spikes excited me no end," recalled Patil. He added: "I am amazed that he could deal with characters like MAK Pataudi [who he led in the 1972-73 series against England], ML Jaisimha, Salim Durani, Eknath Solkar and Ashok Mankad etc. It musn't have been easy and I doff my hat to him."
Patil started admiring Wadekar at Shivaji Park. "We youngsters used to copy whatever Ajit did — his walk to crease, his strokes, the way he stood at slip, even the way he spoke. Shivaji Park has lost its darling, Mumbai and Indian cricket has lost a darling and I have lost my darling," concluded Patil.
No. of first-class runs scored by Ajit Laxman Wadekar
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