Ajit Agarkar, who led Mumbai to their 40th Ranji Trophy title in January this year, did a Sachin Tendulkar on Wednesday. While Tendulkar announced his retirement from Tests through a mail from the BCCI last Thursday, the former India new-ball bowler made known his decision to quit all forms of cricket by dashing off a letter to the Mumbai Cricket Association on Wednesday, before the Ranji Trophy squad was named for the opening match against Haryana in Lahli from October 27-30.
“It has been 17 years, so the decision to retire was not sudden,” Agarkar told dna. “This had to happen sometime. [I] am yet to decide what I will do next.”
Agarkar was more than a useful cricketer who began his international career in 1998 with a bang. He became the fastest to 50 ODI wickets (then) – 23 matches – and also boasted of a Test century at Lord's, 109 in the second innings of the first Test of the 2002 summer.
Agarkar was considered an ideal all-rounder to fill in the boots of the great Kapil Dev, but somehow did not realise his true potential in Tests. The 35-year-old had a better ODI career, picking up 288 wickets in 191 matches, than in Tests, where he scalped 58 sticks in 26 matches.
Asked whom he enjoyed opening the new ball with, Agarkar said: “There have been so many that if I list one or two, others will not be happy. But it has to be Zak (Zaheer Khan). I bowled a fair bit with him and enjoyed. Also, I enjoyed bowling with Abey (Kuruvilla) early in my career and learnt a lot from him.”
Agarkar's senior when he broke into the Indian team, Javagal Srinath, said that Agarkar was “an intelligent cricketer who understood the needs of the team”.
Srinath and Agarkar played 11 Tests together between 1998 and 2001. Srinath added: “Agarkar was a very shy person but a gritty cricketer who won a few matches for India single-handedly. He had a tremendous potential. I am glad I spent good time with him bowling alongside. He always gave his best, was deceptively quick and a good fielder as well.”
Another former India speedster with whom Agarkar played with, BK Venkatesh Prasad, said that the Mumbaikar could have achieved much more than what he did. “Certainly, Ajit could have achieved much more for his talent,” Prasad, currently coach of the Uttar Pradesh Ranji team, said.
“Ajit was very unassuming for a fast bowler. For his height and physique, not many could relate him to a fast bowler. But he bowled quicker than a few others. It was fantastic to bowl with Ajit. He was a very handy batsman and a very good and safe fielder.”
G Krishnan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org