Free Press Journal

Cricket’s Lost Talents! Hundred at Lords, Bombay Duck, Fastest to 50 wickets, Ajit Agarkar the unsung Hero of Indian Cricket


I was hesitant for including someone who has played nearly 200 ODIs and grabbed close to 300 wickets, in the list of crickets lost talent. Agarkar was one of the most successful bowler in the 50-over format and is the third highest wicket-taker (288) for India after Anil Kumble and Javgal Srinath. He was more than a handy batsman too and bailed the Men in Blue out of trouble on multiple occasions.

During ‘India A tour’ to Pakistan, Agarkar took 23 wickets and made buckets of runs, including a century, which resulted in a landmark victory. He made his ODI debut against mighty Australia at Kochi later that year, and became the then fastest man to 50 ODI wickets (23 ODIs), breaking the great Dennis Lillies’ record. In the 1999-00 Australia tour after getting out for series of ducks (without scoring a run), Agarkar earned the nickname ‘Bombay Duck’ which would surely have impacted his confidence.

Interestingly, Agarkar hit a hundred at Lord’s where most of the Indian batsmen failed. Agarkar helped VVS Laxman to add 126, with 9 wickets down for 334. Just to prove the erratic nature of his career, the unbeaten 109 remains Agarkar’s only Test score above fifty. He followed the innings with an ODI 95 batting at No 3 against the West Indies later that year. When you talk about pace bowling in India, the first two names that come to mind are Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan. Srinath led India in 90s and early 2000s. Later Zaheer took over when Srinath retired in 2003. But interestingly, Agarkar has more ODI wickets than Zaheer despite playing three matches less than him. Moreover, Agarkar has a better bowling average and a better strike-rate than both Zaheer and Srinath.

While his economy rate was always on the higher side, his inconsistency and tendency to keep getting hit once batsmen started going after him proved to be his bane. He kept getting in and out of the side, but his final career statistics do not do justice to the talent the man possessed.