Many years after he made his debut and began living his cricket career according to the graph of his heartbeat, someone said, “He has elephant ears.” I had never noticed it before and from since I heard that said, I’ve always noticed it.
There was nothing else elephantine about Ajit Agarkar. He was this slender toothpick of a fast bowler whose weapon was more spunk than arrogance. He was quick, but didn’t shake the earth. When he somehow hit a batsmen with a bouncer, it was more ant bite than elephant stamp. He scared nobody; if anything, he disarmed batsmen off their fear. His memory was poor, bowling the same kind of ball again, that he had been hit for a boundary off seconds earlier.
Yet, Agarkar was a heroic presence. Not a hero you’d look up to, but someone you felt comfortable emulating. His action made you feel you have a better one. His economy rate touched newer heights of indiscipline. His batting was like a comic interlude, including the time he raised his bat at getting off the mark.
Agarkar’s main strength was he always seemed to possess a better future than a present. Each time he bowled short and wide, you knew there was something better coming next ball. Each time his bat came from third man to face extra cover via leg-slip and he mistimed to mid-wicket, you felt he still had time to be that promised all-rounder.
Hardly ever though, had he looked listless. There was still that spunk in him when he sent down 8 random overs for 50. He waved his bat for a 2-ball duck like a warrior waved his sword. His zest as a cricketer was always there, until one horrible season in 2007, when he was anonymous. Ajit Agarkar had changed, as everyone wanted him to, but not as a bowler. 8 overs cost 63 in his last game, but there was no energy or spunk to counter that. That was also the first time I thought he should be dropped. He was. Those elephant’s ears were looking bigger than him.
Now, he is back with Mumbai, bowling at the VCA ground, hassling India’s second XI with his pace, bounce and zest. That spunk looked to have come back somehow. That promise of an all-rounder has faded quietly, but Agarkar is still a fun bowler to have in a team. Imagine a situation when India send Ishant to rest, RP to school and field Agarkar, Zaheer and Nehra in the ODIs against Australia. Eight years back when this happened in a Test match, the Indian selectors were so taken aback by their collective ineptitude that they brought in Tinu Yohanan, Iqbal Siddiqui and Sanjay Bangar for the next series. That won’t happen now. There are a few more matches of the elephant ears left in the Indian team.