Tri-colour-draped Ajit Wadekar bids final goodbye
Snippets from former India cricket captain Ajit Wadekar's funeral which moved his family members, friends, teammates and fans to tears
All members of India's physically challenged cricket team arrived from different parts of the country to pay their last respects to Ajit Wadekar. Haryana-based Dinesh Sain, the captain of India's physically challenged team, told mid-day: "Wadekar sir is like 'bhagwan' [God] for all of us. Actually, he is the 'janamdata' [parent] of disabled cricket. Whatever respect we are getting is only because of this man. I don't think we would have progressed had it not been for Wadekar sir.
The former India captain set up the All India Cricket Association for the Physically Challenged and spent a lot of his time working for disabled cricket. "Though being a big cricketing personality, he was very attached to our cricket and even visited talukas and districts to work for our association. I would have been happy if the Indian cricket board [BCCI] considered Wadekar sir's request to recognise our association. Being the president of the association, he worked very hard and it's now up to the BCCI to think about it positively and grant us affiliation. That would be a fine tribute to his contribution," remarked Sain.
No halt at Wankhede?
Former Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) president Ravi Savant slammed the MCA for not sending out a public condolence message to mourn the death of Ajit Wadekar, who was vice-president of the association for several terms. Struggling to comprehend the MCA's silence on Wednesday (the night he passed away) and Thursday, Savant felt that a gesture of respect should have been made at least yesterday. "The MCA should have requested the family to let the truck carrying Wadekar's body halt at the Wankhede Stadium briefly as a mark of respect, something which was done at Shivaji Park Gym," he said.
Ajit Wadekar's family near his tri-colour-draped body
The Wadekar family opted to retain the India tri-colour in which his body was wrapped for the State funeral. "We ask the family members if they want to keep the tri-colour. Some opt to retain it, while others don't choose to keep it. The tri-colour has been given to the Wadekar family," said Madhukar Pawar, the head of the Police band.
Same priest as 1999
Sanjay Bhatvadekar, the Hindu priest, who was present when the last rites of Ajit Wadekar were performed by his sons Prasad and Vipul yesterday, also assisted in the rituals for Sachin Tendulkar's father Ramesh on May 19, 1999 at the same Shivaji Park crematorium. "Ramesh Tendulkar was cremated here as early as 6 am when only a handful of relatives and friends were present. But today, hundreds of people gathered here," Bhatvadekar, 45, said. The Wadekar family has been inviting me to their Worli home for all religious ceremonies since the last 25 years," he added.
Proud and sad driver
It was a moment of pride and sadness for Bala Saheb Burute, 45, who drove the truck which carried the body of Ajit Wadekar to the Shivaji Park crematorium with a stop at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana where Wadekar played club cricket. "I was given the assignment on Thursday night and came to Sportsfield Apartments as early as 4 am today," said Burute, adding, "It's not a good feeling to drive someone to his last destination. However, I am proud to be the man instrumental in reaching a world famous cricketer to God."
Som on Sportsfield's loss
MM Somaya, the former India hockey captain and member of the gold medal-winning 1980 Moscow Olympics team, apart from being Ajit Wadekar's neighbour at Sportsfield Apartments, felt the society had lost the head of its family. "He was the promoter [of Sportsfield CHS] and was instrumental in all of us joining the society many years ago. He kept us all together. I liked the way he conducted our meetings — always very calm. And if there was any difference of opinion, he sorted it out with his sense of humour and in a very amicable way. At the same time, he was serious when required. I have very fond memories of Ajit. It's a great loss for us," said Somaya.
Umesh loses his 'partner'
Umesh Kulkarni, the former Test pacer and a close friend of Ajit Wadekar, admitted that his Sportsfield neighbour never went on about his health issues despite being unwell for quite a while. "I went to his home on Monday and spoke to him for a few minutes. I never thought that would be our last meeting," said a tearful Kulkarni, who accompanied him everywhere be it a cricket match or a party. The Wadekar-Kulkarni 'partnership' was a common sight at Legends Club meetings held to honour cricketing greats at Cricket Club of India. We asked Kulkarni whether he could recall an on-field partnership and he was quick to recall his brief stand during the 1965-66 Irani Cup at Madras. It was a low-scoring game which ended with Bombay scoring 174 for nine in response to Rest of India's 243 and the honours were shared as the last pair of Padmakar Shivalkar and Bharat Narvekar survived.
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