'I have followed the tradition of Mumbai cricket'
ESPNcricinfo spoke to former India and Mumbai fast bowler Ajit Agarkar soon after he announced his retirement from all forms of cricket
How do you feel after announcing the decision?
Relieved, now that I have made the decision. It was a tough decision; it wasn't easy to let go of something that you have been passionately doing all these years.
Why retire now?
Why not? I've thought about it. It's not like I decided about it yesterday. You have to be at peak of your fitness and motivated enough to last a full season.
But the Mumbai selectors were set to name you as captain for yet another season …
It's ok. I should be as motivated as others. It was the right time for me. One more season was not going to change much. It could only have meant I would have been around for one more season and one of the youngsters would have been benched for Mumbai. I don't have a chance to play for India, so I thought it was the right time. Moreover, it's not a young (Mumbai) team anymore. It's a well-balanced unit and I feel it was time to let the younger lot carry the mantle.
Are you moving away from the trend set by players who continue playing, or move to other states as professionals towards the latter stages of their careers?
I have been primarily playing for last six years only to groom youngsters. How many fast bowlers would have continued to play for six years after playing their last international game? The only purpose to continue playing once I realised I was not going to play for India again was to pass on my experience to youngsters. That is the tradition of Mumbai cricket and I have followed it.
Was there a particular moment that made you realise it was time to go?
When we won the final last year. It was a long, hard season. I was mentally and physically drained and thought I should hang up my boots. Then I thought I would give myself the off-season before taking the call. I was still training. I wanted to check if I was ready for yet another hard season. When you come closer to the season, you start getting excited about it. But I knew it was getting harder for me to be right up there. I still gave it a try but when I realised the body wasn't responding - physically and emotionally - there was no point continuing with it.
Weren't you tempted to reach 300 first-class wickets and play with Sachin
Tendulkar one last time?
What will that do? When I started last year's final, I knew I was on 295. That was the first time I actually knew about my stats. I still stopped bowling after taking three wickets in the first six overs. If those landmarks were to happen, they would have happened last season. Had it been a landmark in international cricket, maybe I would have thought about it. But Dhawal (Kulkarni) needs a five-for more than me now.
The last three-four seasons had been stop-start for you. Has there been too much of wear and tear on the body to continue playing?
I am in my thirties. It's hard even for a young bowler who is at his peak. The conditions, the travelling, it all takes a lot out of you. It's a reality that every professional cricketer has to deal with it. When you have to bowl 30 to 40 overs, travel for a day and then take the field again in a couple of days and keep on doing it every week, it's tough.
To continue playing IPL would obviously have been tempting for you?
Not at all. IPL is a fantastic tournament, no doubt. Even for a player like me, it presents an opportunity to play with and against quality international cricketers. Also, financially it's very rewarding. However, since I haven't played international cricket for the last five years, I would anyway be an uncapped cricketer. Still, there was no consideration to give it a go only for financial reasons. If I had to continue playing, I would have continued playing all forms of the same.
How would you sum up the whole journey?
Fantastic. I have absolutely no complaints. To have collected almost 350 international wickets was an absolute privilege. So was scoring a Test century. I was fortunate to have my name in the list of honours at two of the most special venues in international cricket, Lord's and Adelaide Oval. Won seven Ranji titles with Mumbai. You always want more but you don't get it. Very happy. I could actually finish after winning a Ranji title. That is how it had started, so very happy that it culminated in the same way.
What next now?
I don't know. It's taken a while for the decision to be made. But now that I have done it, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Obviously it would be good if I can stay connected with the game in some form. But for now, I just need to enjoy myself and spend a lot of quality time with my family and friends.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo