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When Ajit Agarkar turned Lion at Lord’s in 2002

Written by Devendra Pandey
| Mumbai |

Up to date: July 28, 2020 11:05:04 pm


Ajit Agarkar scored an unbeaten 109 from 190 balls towards England at Lord’s in 2002. (Supply: File)

It was like water off the duck’s again – these taunts of ‘Bombay Duck’ that got here Ajit Agarkar’s method after 7 straight zeroes towards the Australians, throughout two continents and three seasons. There’s one thing basic concerning the Bombay duck – it isn’t really a duck. It’s a quite delicious fish.

Likewise, there was one thing basic about how the Mumbaikar considered his stints with the bat — he didn’t actually fret a lot in any respect concerning the disastrous streak that spanned Adelaide, MCG, SCG and Wankhede. In his thoughts, he was a bowler. Middling tempo most instances, aspiring to be tearaway. By no means actually a batsman, beneath scrutiny. His batting to him was a non sequitur.

What’d it acquired to do with the value of the fish – the bombil, actually?

“It didn’t hassle me then and neither does it at this time,” Agarkar says of the nickname that caught. “I by no means learn what was written, as a result of my predominant position was as a bowler and never as a batsman. I’d have been extra nervous if I used to be not getting wickets!”

Coming in at a dawdling No Eight principally as a comet’s tail within the star-studded line-up that boasted Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and even Mumbai titan Wasim Jaffer meant Agarkar wasn’t dropping sleep over the comings and goings of Daddles, the yellow duck that sauntered on TV screens – together with twice when he acquired a pair. “No one ever mentioned my batting nor (not) getting off the mark. It was the press who began it and I didn’t thoughts it,” Agarkar recollects.

What it massively contributed to was a dozen innings of principally undazzling 127 runs and a toy-Boeing common of seven.47, regardless of a highest rating of 41, when Agarkar fetched as much as bat at Lord’s on 29 July of 2002.

The Bombay duck would possibly carry its attribute whiff however is kind of irresistible when batter fried in rawa. It was at Lord’s lastly that ‘Agaaa-rkar’ because the commentators known as him, “averaging lower than 8” until then, discovered his golden, crispy chunk of succulent, fleshy type with the bat.

In what’s peak fishing season (April by August for the bombil), Ajit Agarkar netted the biggie of batsmanship – a century on the hallowed Lord’s – which catapulted him straight to the extremely envied honours board. It was a scorching century, with a plop of spicy sass on the facet.

The king pairs towards Australia – he says – by no means bothered him a lot trigger his batting was not up for judgment. However when the world acquired all the way down to speaking about his batting lastly, there was a lot glee within the stands and again at residence, even sufficient to take the sting out of India’s 170-run loss to go 0-1 down within the sequence. Many reckon the rearguard innings on the fifth day constructed the momentum for India to push to stage the sequence rating at 1-1 within the subsequent Take a look at.

However as standalone fritters go, the unheralded batter going about nonchalantly whacking the English bowlers was as crunchy as a counterstrike could possibly be. Captain Sourav Ganguly had saved his shirt on this time, on the balcony (after dropping it earlier in the summertime), and spent numerous subdued time jutting his chin out on the railing because the balusters of Indian batting got here undone. He would be a part of the remainder of the workforce in addition to the English opponents, as they applauded this impossible Take a look at hundred from an Indian. The fish got here good when the chips have been down.

****

It shouldn’t have stunned the world actually. Again within the metropolis of bombils when Agarkar was nonetheless a school-boy at Sharadashram, a murmur had as soon as taken off of the “subsequent Sachin Tendulkar” – a boy who might bat. Like a collapsing Mexican wave, it died out limply at the same time as Agarkar targeted on bowling.

Cricketcouch.com quotes Agarkar as recalling that enjoying for CCI in a Kanga league as soon as – the place Tendulkar had turned as much as play forward of a sequence – the maestro noticed him bowl and mentioned: “I do know you bat greater than you bowl, however I believe it is best to begin focusing in your bowling a bit extra as properly.” His captain would hand the nippy pacer the brand new ball thereafter as he picked a bunch of wickets and would debut for Mumbai quickly sufficient.

John Wright in his Indian Summer time memoirs recollects the primary coaching session he supervised as India coach. “A teenager began with 4 magnificent pictures, timed to perfection. Christ, I assumed, this boy can bat; he have to be the opening batsman, Shiv Sunder Das. After I sought affirmation I used to be advised, no, that’s Ajit Agarkar, our opening bowler.”

Astride the carousel of Indian cricket that moved from ‘subsequent Sachin’ to the ‘subsequent Kapil Dev’ as India intermittently pined after an all-rounder, Agarkar had raced to quickest 50 wickets in ODIs and was maintaining the bowling a part of the discount. However the batting credo had suffered by the Australian nightmare. But, when the primary Take a look at of the 2002 England sequence arrived, Agarkar had been picked forward of Harbhajan Singh – the same old bowlers’ tussle for spots, a call that appeared to lift eyebrows on reflection after the Lord’s pitch unexpectedly turned and Kumble snared six.

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It was with the bat although that Agarkar would set himself freed from the scrutinising glare. This was quickly after the NatWest win, and the rejuvenated Indian workforce beneath Sourav Ganguly was attempting to depart its mark abroad. India have been by no means thought-about nice travellers. The house workforce dominated within the sport for 4 days leaving India a mammoth 568 to chase in 5 classes.

On fourth day at stumps, India’s high order as soon as once more didn’t get going after Wasim Jaffer and Rahul struck fifties. Agarkar and VVS Laxman have been on crease on 28 and 38 not out respectively with six wickets down.

The prod appeared to have come from Tendulkar once more.

“The factor I keep in mind about that (last day) morning was, Sachin (Tendulkar) really gave me throwdowns subsequent to the pitch. I used to be strolling by the lengthy room when the late Raj bhai (Rajsingh Dungarpur), who used to speak in Marathi since my CCI (Cricket Membership of India) days advised me, “Get 100 at this time and change into a batsman,” Agarkar recollects, 18 years after the incident. “I mentioned okay, Raj bhai, I’ll strive.”

Day One had been cooler and seen the ball transfer about fairly a bit. However as the sport progressed the pitch grew to become higher for batsmen. The lulled Lord’s pitch and the nice and cozy climate helped batters. However Agarkar was conscious it was a matter of 1 good ball and England would drive the knife in. England acquired Laxman after he made 74. And Agarkar was left with Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, and Ashish Nehra.

Ajit Agarkar performed 26 Exams for India, scoring 571 runs and scalping 58 wickets. (Supply: File Picture)

“It was a scorching day so we have been attempting to play out the day for a draw, as a result of England bowlers had put in rather a lot within the final session on Day four so we knew we might maintain them off,” Agarkar recollects.

England’s untiring warhorse Matthew Hoggard had sliced off India’s high order and had been hulking again to his run-up with these stomping steps, to run again in. However the Indians have been in a temper to disclaim the hosts their win by delaying. “We have been hopeful if we might hold round, it was an excellent wicket to bat on really. Usually there’s a bit put on and tear, they usually acquired Laxman and shortly we had an attacking area,” Agarkar says.

Ashley Giles would crowd the close-in area, although Agarkar was getting caught into the opposite pacer – Simon Jones.

His sassy yellow bat grip wielded like a golden mace, Agarkar was d isisplaying a satan could care angle however backing that along with his unhassled clear batting strokes. There have been light glides to 3rd man utilizing nuance of geometry, he would drive casually by mid on and slash imperiously over covers – a brief, large one from Jones went aerial. Refusing to be cowered by Giles’ suffocating shut cordon, he would break away with not a care on this planet.

Ideas of a century — often the albatross across the high order’s neck — didn’t appear to weigh him down, and it was this utter lack of strain, that will push him to 60 at an excellent clip. Within the subsequent six overs, India misplaced Kumble and Zaheer, when Agarkar was on some 60 odd. He had Nehra for firm, who had been promoted as night time watchman in first innings however by no means acquired a ball onto his bat. However an earnest tail-ender he was, irrespective of how misplaced the trigger.

READ | Lord and Grasp: How Dilip Vengsarkar conquered Lord’s

“After I was on 60, I by no means thought I’ll get 100 as a result of one good ball might get me or him. And because the area that Nasser Hussain set was attacking, a ball going previous the tight fielders at all times acquired some worth. I scored some 16 boundaries,” he explains. Three slips or three hovering close-in was widespread, however there was runs available in the event you might unchain the menacing illness.

It was lunch time, and Agarkar hadn’t seen the scoreboard, he says. Residing within the second, enjoying the ball on benefit — riffing off the obstinate Bombay batsmanship; his batting bloomed over the session.

Inching near hundred, he reached the dressing room at lunch and nobody was speaking to him. As a substitute they gathered round Nehra dousing him in recommendation on the right way to keep put.

Agarkar now recollects with fun, “Everybody was speaking to Ashu (Nehra) and placing strain on him, ki tu out mat hona. He was saying that it was an excessive amount of strain for a bowler. He got here and mentioned, ‘arre yaar, tu hundred bana raha hai aur yeh log mujhe bol rahe hai.’ Fortuitously he hung round lengthy sufficient and I might attain there.”

He had spent yesterday’s final session equally supporting Laxman and achieved the onerous work to take the Take a look at into the final day.

When the hundred occurred, an emboldened Nehra walked upto his tail-end associate and introduced now it was his flip to get his fifty. He had until that time negotiated 40 balls. He would even make room to thwack a six off Andrew Flintoff over the hospitality field. The final wicket added 63 runs earlier than Nehra acquired out for 19. Agarkar remained unbeaten on 109 off 190, although India misplaced the primary Take a look at by a giant margin.

“It was a particular second. Scoring hundred is at all times particular and that too at quantity eight. Had we received, we’d have been happier. We couldn’t save the check. However a lone Take a look at hundred got here at a particular place for me. My spouse was there to look at it too, I had simply acquired married and we travelled to West Indies after which England,” the previous Mumbai captain mentioned.

READ | 4 balls and a profession: Chetan Sharma

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Rising up, Agarkar had wished to be a batsman and like every child wished to attain hundred at Lords. Really making it occur although thrilled him to bits as he punched the air finishing the run. The Lord’s crowd with loads of Indians was on its toes, because the opponents good naturedly gave the doughty No Eight an ovation.

The honours board is of course prized actual property house, and has Vinoo Mankad, Dilip Vengsarkar, Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly, Ravi Shastri, Gundappa Vishwanath and later Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane etched in matte gold lettering on the deep brown wood Wall of fame. Agarkar later mentioned he had ribbed Ricky Ponting about “what number of tons of at Lord’s?” however had mentioned he was exactly conscious of the place his batting stood. The Ponting banter occurred sometimes throughout the frivolity of an IPL, however even when he felt like a whale on that day within the seas at Lord’s, he had by no means pulled Sachin Tendulkar’s leg in related jest.

The way in which his profession panned out, Agarkar might have picked a Take a look at hundred anyplace for he traversed many lands. But it surely needed to be Lord’s. In later years, he performed for Middlesex. And it was then that he revisited his innings. He says he was fortunate that majority of innings Laxman was round to steer him patiently. The one time he says he noticed the scoreboard was when he was on 99.

“I took my mother to Lord’s later. It was good to point out her the honours board. As a result of it’s 100 at Lord’s and no one anticipated that I’ll get 100, so everybody remembers that inning until date. It definitely stands out. There’s something about that place,” he says.

He nonetheless has the bat he used to make the hundred in a single nook of his home. He hasn’t framed it nevertheless it’s saved secure with him until date. The underside of the bat acquired damaged throughout the Pakistan tour of 2004.

Dungarpur would regally gloat later. “Apparently he got here to the dressing room later within the day, and mentioned, “I advised him, I advised him, he’ll get 100.” There have been no Androids and emojis again then, however in his personal goofy method, Ajit Agarkar had ordered Daddles the duck, to take a stroll again residence – alone, whereas he discovered his seat at Lord’s.

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