Mumbai welcomes back Ajit Agarkar
Ajit Agarkar, who had pulled out of the Mumbai squad midway through the Ranji Trophy season after he was dropped for the group match against Orissa, has been included among the 25 probables for the West Zone one-dayers of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Agarkar met with Milind Rege, Mumbai's chairman of selectors, Ratnakar Shetty, Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) vice-president, and Nitin Dalal, the MCA secretary on Monday afternoon to sort out the issues after Rege had messaged Agarkar last week, requesting for a meeting. It is understood that at the meeting, which lasted 45 minutes, both Agarkar and the MCA management regretted what had happened.
"I am always happy to play for Mumbai and am looking forward to the return," Agarkar told ESPNcricinfo. "I obviously can't change what has happened. I now look forward to the one-dayers if selected."
On November 29, Mumbai were to start their Elite group match against Orissa in Cuttack. But the previous evening Agarkar was informed by the pair of Sulakshan Kulkarni and Wasim Jaffer (Mumbai coach and captain respectively) that he was not part of the playing XI. It was also Zaheer Khan's first game of the Ranji season, as part of his recovery process from the injury he picked up during last year's England tour.
Annoyed at being dropped, Agarkar flew back to Mumbai on the morning of the match. The issue snowballed into a controversy after Zaheer supported Agarkar's decision and blamed the pair of Rege and Kulkarni for "pulling down" Mumbai cricket. Thereafter Agarkar, who had played only one match in the season (against Karnataka and went wicketless) made himself unavailable for selection despite calls from Dalal and Shetty, who asked him to reconsider. In his absence, Mumbai's fast bowling department lacked a leader.
After Mumbai's lukewarm performance during the Ranji Trophy campaign where they bowed out of the semi-finals against Tamil Nadu, the pressure increased on the selectors and the team management. Consequently, Wasim Jaffer, Mumbai's captain for the last four years, stepped down, unhappy at the remarks expressed by Kulkarni to the media.
Probably as a damage-control measure, Rege tried to convince Agarkar to return, to avoid any further rumblings in the dressing room.
At Monday's meeting, Agarkar once again made it clear to the MCA officials that if he was not picked in the playing XI, he would rather sit at home than "carry water." "It is not that I have not been twelfth man in my life but there is a merit to it," Agarkar said.
Agarkar asked for a day to think over it before arriving at a decision. But later that evening, he called up Dalal to confirm his availability. Agarkar, who plays for the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, said he also needed some match practice before the tournament begins in April, and the one-day tournament would be a good platform to get back to fitness.
Probables: Ajinkya Rahane, Wasim Jaffer, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Aavishkar Salvi, Dhaval Kulkarni, Abhishek Nayar, Anup Revandkar, Praful Waghela, Siddharth Chitnis, Iqbal Abdullah, Ankit Chavan, Suryakumar Yadav, Parag Khanapurkar, Aditya Tare, Sushant Marathe, Kumar Subramanian, Balwinder Singh Sandhu Jnr, Kshemal Waingankar, Akhil Herwadkar, Kaustubh Pawar, Usman Malvi, Santosh Shinde, Murtuza Hussain, Shoaib Shaikh
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo