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By Sunil Gavaskar
Two news items made for heartwarming reading last week. One was that Ajit Wadekar had been picked to receive the Col CK Nayudu award for Lifetime Achievement and contribution to Indian Cricket. Wadekar in his own tongue in cheek style reacted by saying that it had come a bit early, but nevertheless thanked the BCCI for bestowing it on him.
Don’t forget that Wadekar was part of the ICL and all those connected with it were out of Indian crickets orbit for those years and actually forfeited even the monthly pensions that the BCCI was giving to the retired Indian internationals. Once the ICL ceased to exist many of the players still playing cricket sought and were given an amnesty by the BCCI and came back to first class cricket, but many of those retired cricketers like Wadekar, who were in the ICL as administrators or coaches or match referees were not immediately absorbed back in Indian Cricket.
That the BCCI has decided to honour Wadekar with the Col CK Nayudu award shows that the BCCI is ready to move on and recognize the contribution of these players to Indian Cricket.
Wadekar was the first skipper, to win back to back series overseas. His team first beat the West Indies in 1971 and then a few months later also defeated England in England. While India had beaten England in a Test series in India they had never won even a Test match against the West Indies since 1948 and so the win against the West Indies led by the one and only Sir Garfield Sobers was special indeed. Wadekar had been appointed captain instead of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi in controversial circumstances with the casting vote of the then chairman of the selection committee Vijay Merchant. Ajit did not have the charisma that 'tiger' Pataudi had and so not a lot of followers warmed up to the change in captaincy.
However, Wadekar in his unfussy style got results and in three years India won three consecutive series under him. In the bitterly cold first half of the 1974 tour to England, India lost all the three Test matches and when Wadekar returned to India he found out that he was not considered good enough to be in the West zone team, leave alone captaining it. That shocking news prompted him to retire from the game and thus Pataudi became the captain again albeit for just one series. Wadekar then went into administration and was Vice President of the Mumbai Cricket Association for a long time. He was also the manager of the Indian team and selector and so his has truly been an all-round contribution to Indian Cricket.
The other news that warms the cockles of the hearts is the sending of cheques for the life partners of Ramnath Kenny and Ramnath Parkar. It is not well known that the BCCI pension scheme is available to not just the retired player, but also to his life partner in case he passes away early. It is not available to the other family members if the life partner also passes away. What is obvious from this story is that not all are aware of the fact that even life partners are eligible and so there could well be some others who may not know about the pension scheme.
Be that as it may the gesture to give them the amount that had not been sent to them earlier is a magnificent one indeed, and while the BCCI’s generosity needs to be applauded so also kudos to 'Bapu' Nadkarni, who was the one who found out that the two ladies were not getting the pension due to them and took the necessary steps to ensure that they do get it now. As always 'Bapuji' a total team man played his contribution in getting them the pension down, but it also tells you of the mate-ship and camaraderie among the cricketers of that era had. They played in each others benefit matches without charging a penny and often went to unheard of places to help raise funds for national causes.
Today if there is a Ranji Trophy being played in a town which does not have a five star hotel, the international players find some reason not to play it. They of course play Ranji Trophy only when they are dropped from the Indian team or if they are out of form, or when they have to prove their fitness for being eligible for selection to the national team.
True, there is a lot of international cricket being played, but the one sure way that the game gets better is when the best players play in the domestic circuit even if it is for a few games. It not only makes the tournament more competitive and gives the selectors a more realistic idea about the skills and temperaments of the fringe players, but it also energizes and enthuses the other members of the state team. It is a great experience for youngsters to share the dressing room with the internationals and is a boost to his ambitions too. The IPL does that, where not just Indian internationals but also overseas greats share the dressing room and net practice with up and coming youngsters and help in their development.
It may not be in terms of cricketing skills because of the shortness of the format, but certainly they pick up tips from senior more experienced players on how to deal with tough situations and if you are lucky to have seniors like 'Bapu' Nadkarni in the team then the development is quicker indeed.
Well done BCCI and 'Bapuji' too.