Former India skipper Ajit Wadekar on Tuesday paid glowing tributes to his ex-Test and first-class teammate Dilip Sardesai, who died in Mumbai on Monday night, giving him a major credit for the historic wins over the West Indies and England in 1971.
"It has been one long partnership lasting more than 15 years on the cricket field with Sardya. He used to call me Jitya. If we won the Test series in 1971 in the West Indies, 90 per cent of the credit belongs to Dilip," said the former left-handed batsman, who was the captained in the two series.
Sardesai's 642 runs in that series in the Caribbean went a long way in fetching India's first-ever win there and second overall overseas and was second only to then debutant Sunil Gavaskar's monumental tally of 774 runs.
"He also played a crucial role in the Test victory at the Oval of the same year against England [and consequently the series win] and his two knocks in the Test, both fifties, helped bind the innings and ensured victory," Wadekar recalled.
About his contribution on the 1971 Caribbean visit, which should go down in the annals of Indian cricket as something very special, Wadekar said Sardesai's double hundred in the series opener gave the team the requisite confidence to do well against the legendary Gary Sobers-led West Indies outfit.
"It was his double hundred in the first Test that gave us tremendous confidence and then he continued in that vein right through. That phase saw him at his best as a batsman. He almost reproduced that in England too," the ex-India captain said.
Wadekar, who was among several past Test cricketers who attended Sardesai's funeral at the Chandanwadi electric crematorium on Tuesday morning, also remembered the countless partnerships that they had put on during their playing career.
"I can't count on my fingers the number of partnerships we have put on [for India and Mumbai]. He was a team man and also gave me useful tips when I led the side. It was unfortunate he was not a regular member of the team when he was in his prime [in the later part of the 1960s]. When he made his comeback he was at the end of his career," he said.
Wadekar also regretted that Sardesai's vast knowledge as a cricketer was not utilised by the BCCI.
"It's unfortunate that the BCCI did not utilise his knowledge either as a selector or a manager," he said.
Former Test opener Kenia Jayantilal, who was a member of the historic visit to the Caribbean in 1971 and played in the first Test, also recalled Sardesai's tremendous part in the series triumph.
"He played like a king. In the first Test his double century came after we had lost five early wickets. At Barbados later we were again five or six down when he scored 212 [Sardesai's career best in Tests]," remembered Jayantilal.
"Dilip was a tremendous player of spin bowling and as a teammate he was very good. He and [late] M L Jaisimha used to guide Ajit [Wadekar] in his captaincy. He played big roles in the Test series wins in both West Indies and in England later that year," the former opener said.
Jayantilal also recalled Sardesai's passion for guiding young cricketers, under-15 and under-17, after his playing days.
Another former club, state and India colleague, all-rounder Bapu Nadkarni, also praised Sardesai for the quality of his batting and remembered their fond friendship.
"I have lost a very dear and personal friend. We were mates at the Gymkhana [P J Hindu], ACC [Associated Cement Company], Mumbai and then India. I can only say a lovely stroke-player of our era is gone," the former left-arm spinner and gritty lower order batsman said.
"The last time I met him was at the CCI during the SMG [Sunil Gavaskar] function. He was alright then. We -- me, Dilip, Nari [Contractor] recalled old days and memories," he said.
Nadkarni, though praising Sardesai's double century knock at Mumbai against New Zealand after India were made to follow on consequent to their low-scoring 88 in the first innings at the Brabourne Stadium in 1965, rated his two innings in the Oval Test of 1971 as the departed cricketer's best ones.
"The scores he made were only 50 and 40-odd but what a way he batted at the Oval! I was there watching the match while playing league cricket in England and they, according to me, were his very best though I did not see his 212 at Jamaica [against the West Indies in the same year]," Nadkarni felt.
"We were also involved in a very crucial partnership to rescue India at Kanpur in 1964 against Mike Smith's England side.
"We were in a difficult situation and decided mutually to go there and get stuck at the wicket. The match was saved after we had followed on," the former all-rounder recalled.