Sandhu: Hasty decision by Agarkar, but...
Reading about Ajit Agarkar leaving the Mumbai team in Cuttack and returning home in a huff was not the kind of news I was looking forward to read yesterday morning. As an ex-player, my heart bleeds for Mumbai cricket. It is now left poorer on the image front. All this could have been avoided had there been better communication between Ajit, the team management and the selectors.
I write this, not as a member of Cricket Improvement Committee, but a former Mumbai and India player. I ask myself what I would have done if I were in coach Sulakshan Kulkarni's shoes? Firstly, if players are to be told that they must make room for younger players -- which has happened in the case of Ajit -- it must be done at the end of the season. So, the player and selectors know what path they are taking.
Balwinder Singh Sandhu
Performers like Ajit have to be respected and handled well. If he was coming in the way of the process of grooming younger talent, he could have been told before the team left for Cuttack. The dropping, but naturally, has left him hurt. The manager's role is very vital here. A professional manager has to be appointed right from the start. It is a critical appointment. However, the current trend is to 'reward' individuals with a manager's appointment. There cannot be any monkeying around when it comes to this area.
In our days, we had Naren Tamhane and Sharad Diwadkar as managers. They were big names in Mumbai cricket. They could also handle prickly issues well.
I remember a very senior player being dropped by the Mumbai captain when he reported late for a game. That senior player didn't make a hasty retreat to the railway station. He stayed put, and life went on. This wouldn't have happened had there been no quick, positive intervention from the manager.
Agarkar chose to leave the team. From what I've read, he believed that his presence would not have helped the dressing room environment. He could well be still seething and hurt. But I am sure down the track, he will realise that it was not a good decision to leave because had he stayed, he would have been very helpful to the other bowlers.
Zaheer has shown courage to speak up for Ajit. I feel his comments are straight from the heart and he genuinely felt that a performer like Ajit has been humiliated. And after all, he wouldn't want the same treatment to be meted out to him in years to come.
What are the lessons that Mumbai cricket can take out of this? Firstly, treat senior players with respect. They are the ones who you can go to when the team needs a lift. Secondly, make your policy very clear to players. And thirdly, it's never too late to appoint that professional manager.
1983 World Cupper Balwinder Singh Sandhu was Mumbai's coach during their 1997-98 Ranji Trophy triumph.