City's last Lord's Test centurion before Ajinkya, hails fellow Mumbaikar
Mumbai’s cricket fraternity earned another share of bragging rights on Thursday when city boy Ajinkya Rahane cracked a fine hundred on the opening day of the second Test against England at Lord’s on Thursday.
Ajinkya Rahane pulls his way to 103 against England at Lord's on Thursday. Pic/Getty Images.
The importance of a Lord’s century was not lost on Ajit Agarkar, the last Indian batsman to score a Test ton at the erstwhile headquarters of world cricket.
Ajit Agarkar cut en route his 109 in 2002
The 2002 Lord’s centurion was quick to tweet, “Hey buddy, congratulations on an exceptional 100! Very well deserved mate.” The word ‘exceptional’ also figured in mid-day’s conversation with Agarkar yesterday evening. The retired all-rounder agreed that there was a ring of disbelief to Rahane’s hundred considering India were in the throes of duress at 145 for seven.
“I think it was exceptional. If someone would’ve said at lunch or tea that someone would go on and get a hundred, you’d say it would have to be one of the best hundreds in Test cricket. In that situation, Ajinkya batted aggressively. There were good shots — no slogging, swinging. It was a superbly paced hundred. In the last session, they got 150 — exceptional under those conditions.
Normal cricket shots
“At times, (in a struggling scenario) you say to yourself, ‘I have to hit out.’ Ajinkya didn’t over-hit anything. He just played normally with all cricketing shots,” said Agarkar of his Mumbai colleague.
Agarkar’s praise brush continued to flow: “In those conditions, it was a great hundred especially since he has been a fringe player in the last two to three years. To stand up and play an innings like that, when others around you are struggling, must have given Ajinkya a lot of confidence. He’d be very happy; this ton must’ve made him very proud.”
Talking about his century in the 2002 Test, Agarkar had the same regret as he had then when we spoke on July 30 in London — of India not being able to draw or win the Test.
Back in 2002...
“The situation was pretty simple — we had to play five sessions. There was no hurry to score any runs. It’s disappointing that the game was not saved,” he said then. Nasser Hussain’s Englishmen set India a 568-run target, but they ended up 171 short with No 8 Agarkar staying unbeaten on 109.
Of the nine Indian Test centurions at Lord’s, five of them (late Vinoo Mankad, Dilip Vengsarkar (three tons), Ravi Shastri, Agarkar and now Rahane) are from Mumbai. Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar couldn’t get their names inscribed on the honours board, but then, as Agarkar said with a chuckle, “they have enough hundreds and I don’t think they are too worried about it.”