He might have been off the national selectors' radar for more than four years now during which time a new crop of younger bowlers have arrived on the scene, but pacer Ajit Agarkar has not lost hope of making a comeback into the Indian team at some point in the future.
"I am still hoping to get another opportunity to play for India. I made my first class debut at the age of 19, so people think I am older than what I am. I am still fit. I am happy to be playing for India again," said the 34-year-old fast bowler, who will lead Mumbai in the West Zone One-Day Tournament, commencing here on February 22.
Agarkar had walked out of the Mumbai Ranji Trophy campaign earlier this year in the early part of the league stage after he was left out of the playing XI against Orissa at Cuttack and remained unavailable till the end of the Wasim Jaffer-led team's campaign.
The speedster had last played for India in a ODI against England at the Oval in September 2007 and went out of the national reckoning after being part of the victorious World T20 Cup-winning squad the same year.
Ajit Agarkar Pic/Suresh K.K.
Agarkar, who has been handed over captaincy of the Mumbai team for the first time since his debut in 1996-97 after Jaffer stepped down from the post, said Mumbai's task in the One-Day tournament was not going to be as easy as it was a decade ago, because other teams have improved in the shorter formats of the game.
"Our task is tough. We need to play well throughout the 100 overs. It's not going to be easy. Seven to ten years ago we had it easier, but no longer is that the case," he said.
Agarkar was pleased that Mumbai would be playing all their matches at the Wankhede Stadium, but insisted the team had nothing to do with that decision. "We are happy to be playing at the Wankhede Stadium, though we did not have any say in it. The track here traditionally offers good bounce," he said.
Looking forward to Mumbai's campaign in the zonal one-dayers, Agarkar said the team had always done well at this level though it has been unable to replicate it at the knock-outs for which two teams from each zone would qualify.
"We have always done well in the one-dayers at the league stage but somehow not able to sustain it at the national level in the knockout rounds. This year we have a very good team," he said.
About the opening game against Baroda on Wednesday, Agarkar said that they had been the one which had troubled Mumbai consistently in the past.
"They are a tough team with some very good players and have given us a tough time in the past. There is Yusuf Pathan who is a dangerous player and who can turn the match around in a short time. I don't know whether Munaf (Patel) is playing," the new Mumbai captain said.
Asked about Pathan vis-a-vis an India berth and whether such players needed to be given a longer run than others for their game-chancing ability, Agarkar said it was not for him to comment.
"Whether X, Y, Z is to be a given a longer rope is not for me to say. It's up to the selectors to answer and it's (India captain Mahendra Singh) Dhoni's problem. When batting at no. 7 (in one-day matches) you don't get time to settle down and stats, to that extent, can be misleading."
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