After bidding goodbye to international cricket, Ajit Agarkar has kept himself busy with media work and playing serious golf. Recently, partnering Shabbir Rawjee, he won the BMR World Corporate Golf Challenge and earned a trip for the 22nd Annual World Corporate Golf Challenge in Cascais, Portugal.
Agarkar spoke about his passion for golf, the Indian Premier League (IPL), leg-spinners, Virat Kohli and other things in this interview with Sportstar.
You seem to be pretty serious about golf and have won the BMR World Corporate Golf Challenge title.
It’s all fun… good fun. I want to improve and become a better golfer. I want to enjoy the sport. I have always wanted to play golf; but I was too tired after playing a day of cricket. I picked up golf immediately after I retired. The late Rajesh Sanghi (who played for Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy and died at a young age of 42) wanted me to play golf. I dilly-dallied a bit, when I was playing cricket. So after I retired, he (Rajesh) said I must start playing. In 2014, I was in Bangalore for the IPL media work and started playing at the KGA course. And I tried to work on it a bit in Mumbai. I want to get better at it; certainly it’s not something of a time pass. I just wanted to get my game in order and not really get bothered about the equipment initially.
Would you consider yourself a decent golfer now?
Yeah, yeah. I think my handicap is around 12 or 13. I am definitely getting better. I see a lot of golf on television. I have always followed Tiger Woods. I also see a lot of Anirban Lahiri... great to see an Indian right up there amongst these great professional golfers. I also see Jason Day play now.
What does your good friend Sachin Tendulkar say about your golfing skills?
I don’t know... you have to ask him. I played a few rounds with him two months back. He’s got great hands, but I don’t think he plays as much as me. I have also seen photos of him playing golf.
This year’s IPL has been quite different in many ways. The last few matches will decide the teams for the play-offs.
Yes. One could not predict the top four this time. It has kept the interest going a lot more. Some of the top teams have really had it up and down in form. I don’t know if it was because of the hangover of the ICC World Twenty20. We have had a barrage of Twenty20 starting from the series in Australia. I think most of the teams started a bit slow. Maybe the pitches were initially a bit on the slower side. Teams that batted first did not know how much to score. But I think it was partly due to the amount of cricket most players had played in the last four months.
Do you think the teams were better prepared?
I think even 14 points could get a team into the fourth position. I cannot say if teams have been better prepared, but I think a team like Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) is quite settled. RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) have been late to strike form. The top teams have not been consistent. Look at Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) – on paper, their bowling department seems to be very good. But you would not have picked them in the top four at the start of the tournament; but they have been riding on their bowling and David Warner. So teams like Sunrisers Hyderabad have taken the opportunities. Mumbai Indians dropped a lot of points and went into a rut; they have so many wins and losses.
This has also been Virat Kohli’s IPL. He’s shown phenomenal consistency.
Though these are astonishing numbers, one has to look at things in the correct perspective. Twenty20 is the hardest and most demanding (format) and he’s shown consistency. One can be consistent getting 30s and 40s... but to get four hundreds is indeed a phenomenal feat. I think he believes that he cannot get out; this must be the impression of most people who have seen him play in the IPL. It’s up to the bowlers to do better now. Virat is making it all too easy.
I cannot pinpoint what he’s doing, but it all started in Australia. That was the first time I saw Virat a lot more aggressive. He has always scored runs in Test matches, has constructed his innings in ODIs, but it’s the names of Suresh Raina and Chris Gayle that come up in Twenty20 cricket for their consistency. I think Virat is just carrying on the confidence he got in Australia. I think it’s up to the bowlers to make it a harder for him; you generally talk of four centuries in a career in Twenty20, this is four in an IPL season.
Do you think the approach of Gayle and AB de Villiers has finally rubbed off on him?
I am sure it would have probably helped. But no one can take way what he is doing now. In fact he’s helping the other guys in the team. You watch him bat and after a couple of overs, you don’t feel he will get out, which is a scary sign. The advantage the bowlers may still have is the fact that Virat plays proper cricket shots. So try and bowl those lines the moment one finds him unstoppable. I think one of his hundreds came in the 16th over. Even considering the Bangalore ground, to get four hundreds he’s to be a special player. And he’s still picking the ball on its merit and playing. I think he’s from a different planet as far as Twenty20 is concerned.
Should Virat Kohli be given India captaincy for all formats?
I think so. He’s already the Test team captain. It is another three years for the next World Cup. If he’s likely to lead India in the next World Cup, why not make him the ODI captain now? One can take M. S. Dhoni’s example. He captained India in 2007 and India won the World Cup in 2011. A captain needs a bit of time and sometimes fresh ideas do help. In my opinion he should be ODI captain and also Twenty20. One can understand MS leading in the ICC World Twenty20... but there is nothing on the horizon now. Look, if MS wants to play and is scoring runs, there is no reason why he should not be playing. MS has been at the helm for almost nine years. That’s a long time... sometimes for a team to go forward, fresh ideas may help.
The wrist spinners have taken 87 wickets (after the conclusion of Friday’s Delhi Daredevils-Sunrisers Hyderabad match) and the finger spinners 69.
Well, India is playing lot of Test matches over the next 12 months. I am sure the selectors are looking at bowlers. There are bowlers who are more in tune with Twenty20 requirement. If you have a good leg-spinner, you should always play him. But I would not jump the gun based on Twenty20 performances. I would look at them the way they bowl in first class cricket. We all know what Mishra can do. I mean one can look around and see who is good in the short formats.
I think Mishra has had a fantastic IPL in the last few years. I was a little bit surprised that there were two left-arm spinners (Ravindra Jadeja and Pawan Negi) in the squad for the World Twenty20. Probably there was a chance to get him in. The leg-spinners will always get you wickets. The way the game is going, you cannot stop good leg-spinners from getting wickets. Even a chinaman bowler, why not?
What do you make of Jasprit Bumrah? Ricky Ponting says he’s ready for Test cricket.
I think he’s been the find of the season. There is no doubt about it. Ricky is right. What I like about Jasprit is that he’s put in those two or three years of first class cricket and he knows that he can last matches of longer duration. I know how hard the Ranji Trophy matches are. He’s taken wickets for Gujarat and there’s no reason why he will not be successful elsewhere. Playing in India, he will get a bit of reverse also.
Do you think he should be picked for the away series in the West Indies?
It all depends. Ishant Sharma will be there. Umesh (Yadav) and Varun Aaron are there. Mohammad Shami is back. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is bowling quite well. I have not seen much of Barinder Sran. We don’t know the kind of pitches that will be prepared for the Test series. But I am sure Jasprit Bumrah is knocking hard.
There’s been a lot of talk around appointing a coach for the Indian team. Sunil Gavaskar says Rahul Dravid would be ideal and Kohli has recommended Daniel Vettori.
Rahul retired not long ago and he’s been very busy. He’s still done a lot of work. He’s a great candidate. No one can dispute that. I think the BCCI will ask Virat as well. When you are going to play so many Test matches in the next 12 months, you want the captain and coach to work together. The BCCI should resolve it quickly. This has dragged on a little. One would like this to get settled quickly and India should have a coach.