It’s been a special season for Ajit Agarkar after winning the Ranji Trophy in his maiden year as Mumbai captain. The former India pacer is quite upbeat to be with his Delhi Daredevils teammates as he embarks on his sixth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Agarkar spared some time from his busy practice schedules to talk to MiD DAY ahead of their opening tie against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens tomorrow.
This will be your sixth IPL. Your thoughts…
It is obviously exciting. Most of the international players play, so the competition is great. It goes on for over two months, so you have to be consistent. The first target is to get into the play-offs. The tough part is to get to the play-offs which we did last year, but were not good enough to reach the final. Personally, I would like to contribute to the team’s success in whatever way I can.
You experienced an IPL opener in 2008 when you played for KKR. What’s the buzz over the opening game this time?
We have been in Kolkata for a couple of days. You can sense that it is getting closer. Playing the first game is always exciting. It is also one of the most watched games of the tournament. We kicked off the first edition when I was with KKR against Bangalore. And I have some fond memories of that match with Brendon McCullum scoring that big hundred.
You picked up three wickets in that match…
It is always nice to get wickets. Bowling is relatively easy while defending a 200-odd run total as compared to defending a total of say 130.
Does the opening game set the tone for the tournament?
That was the case during the first edition (in 2008). It was exactly the kind of match needed to kick off a new tournament. But after that, most of the people have sort of understood what to expect from the IPL. The opening game is not very vital now. For a team, it is always nice to get a bit of momentum. You want to start on a winning note. I don’t know whether it (opening game) helps how the tournament is looked at because you’re going to have great games around.
The atmosphere at Eden Gardens is electrifying, but is it daunting for players sometimes?
I have played a lot of cricket in India. I was with KKR for three years. Most crowds can be daunting, but in India, you are used to playing in front of big crowds. I know the support might vary, but if you don’t play well, the crowd will still get back at you in any case.
Does a huge crowd add to the pressure?
There is enough pressure already to land the ball in the right areas. So, personally, it (huge crowd) doesn’t really add to the pressure. I am more worried about whether I am bowling in the right areas or hitting the right shots while batting. The crowd creates a lively atmosphere. You have to cop a bit of nonsense on the boundary line which is okay.
Is it strange that the same crowd that cheered for you once, will not be rooting for you now…
That’s how it should be. That’s the whole idea of the IPL. I have been around for sometime and these things don’t affect me. The crowd in Mumbai has been great with me. The 20 overs go so quickly that these things hardly bother me. It is important to build a home fan base for the success of the IPL.
How does it feel to know that you have Virender Sehwag in your side?
It is fantastic to have him. The way he approaches a game is quite simple. It is great to have him in our side rather than bowl to him. I hope he has a good season with us.
What’s your mindset when good balls get whacked in T20?
As long as it is a good ball, you don’t worry too much. If you are bowling badly, that is when you start worrying. It also means the batsman has played a good shot. You cannot keep thinking about your previous ball because then you won’t be able to think about your next delivery. In T20, you expect batsmen to have a go at you each time you bowl.
How would you rate playing in the IPL?
Very, very high. Now that I am not playing for the country, it still gives me a chance to compete with the best players in the world which you don’t get in any domestic competition. There is no mediocrity allowed in the IPL. All teams are evenly matched. Of course, playing for India is matchless.
Lastly, any fitness concerns?
The groin has been troubling me in the first-class season. I have worked hard enough in the last month after skipping the domestic T20 (Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy). It is quite okay now.