Ajit Agarkar, the former India seamer, has announced his retirement from all competitive cricket. Agarkar had led Mumbai, for whom he played all his Ranji Trophy cricket, to the domestic first-class title in the 2012-13 season. He played 110 first-class games in all, taking 299 wickets at 30.69, as well as 270 List A games and 62 T20s in a career that began in 1996-97.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Agarkar said, given how balanced the Mumbai team is at the moment, he decided it was the right time to go. "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 [again], 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."
Agarkar's decision caught everyone at the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), including the selection panel, by surprise. Sudhir Naik, Mumbai's chairman of selectors, said that he and his panel were set to appoint Agarkar as the captain for the forthcoming domestic season. "It is a surprise to us. Today we had a selection committee meeting where practically we had decided to appoint him as the captain," Naik said. "But before the meeting commenced, we were told he had informed the MCA that he was retiring." Zaheer Khan was later named the captain for Mumbai's Ranji season opener.
In the last few years Agarkar failed to play consistently as recurring injuries force him to sit out. However when he was fit, Agarkar played.
"He was a typical Mumbai player. He could bring out his best and win the critical sessions," Pravin Amre, the former Mumbai coach, said. According to Amre, one of Agarkar's finest hours was in Mysore in 2009, when his aggressive burst of fast bowling denied Karnataka the Ranji Trophy. It was one of the most thrilling first-class matches in India's domestic cricket, when Karnataka nearly chased down 338. Manish Pandey had completed an aggressive and fluent century. Karnataka were marching quickly towards the title, backed by a vociferous home crowd. But a charged up Agarkar, angered by a verbal exchange with an opposition player, bowled with fierce intensity to clinch a five-for and snatch control back for Mumbai.
"His five-for in the second innings was memorable. It was such a tight game but he stood strong to snatch that final wicket," Amre said. "A close appeal was not given but that really fired him up, and the rest of the team which was behind him.
"He always valued the Mumbai cap. His intensity was always high against a tough opponent."
Congratulations @imAagarkar on a fantastic career !! Always enjoyed playing alongside u buddy ....good laughs n memories !!— zaheer khan (@ImZaheer) October 17, 2013
In all, Agarkar was part of eight Ranji Trophy winning sides in his 16-year career. Agarkar was named Mumbai captain last year, following a small controversy. In November 2011, Agarkar had left the team in Cuttack as he was disappointed at not being picked in the XI for a match against Orissa. He consequently withdrew from the squad for the entire 2011-12 Ranji season, before reconciling with the Mumbai association and taking charge for the domestic one-day competition, the Vijay Hazare Trophy, in February 2012. Prior to the start of the following season, he was named first-class captain as well.
Agarkar's international career ran from 1998 to 2007, during which he featured in 26 Tests, 191 ODIs and four Twenty20 internationals. He was off to a flying start in one-day internationals, breaking the then record for the fastest to 50 wickets. He helped India complete a historic win - their first Test match victory in Australia in 23 years - in Adelaide in 2003, with a second-innings six-wicket haul. Despite those infamous five Test ducks in a row against Australia in 1999-2000, Agarkar was also handy with the bat - he has a century at Lord's to his name, which he scored during India's 2002 tour of England. He scored a fifty off 21 balls in an ODI against Zimbabwe in Rajkot in 2000, which remains the fastest one-day fifty by an Indian.
Speaking about Agarkar's retirement, BCCI president N Srinivasan said in a release: "Ajit Agarkar served India with distinction for nearly a decade. On behalf of the BCCI, I congratulate him on a fine career, and wish him all the best for the future."
Ajit Agarkar.such a fierce & competitive cricketer.thank u for what you've done for Indian and Mumbai cricket.enjoyed every moment we shared— Rohit Sharma (@ImRo45) October 17, 2013