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There was no motivation left: Ajit Agarkar

Ajit Agarkar sent shockwaves through Mumbai’s cricketing circles yesterday after deciding to retire from all forms of cricket. The decision comes as a surprise as Agarkar, who led Mumbai to a record 40th Ranji Trophy title last season, was all set to be named skipper for the upcoming season starting later this month.

Ajit Agarkar
Ajit Agarkar during a match for Mumbai

Agarkar, who was a part of the 2007 World T20 winning team, took 58 wickets in 26 Tests and 288 wickets in 191 ODIs and also featured in four T20 Internationals in a career that spanned nine years. Agarkar, who featured in 110 first-class matches, 270 List A games and 62 T20s, spoke to MiD DAY about his finest moments with the Mumbai team and the sudden decision to retire. Excerpts:

When did you decide to retire?
I was thinking about it after the Ranji Trophy final. But I wanted to give it (the decision) some time. It isn’t easy to just let go of something that has been your life. It was an important decision. I took my time as I did not want to be impulsive. I tried preparing myself for the season, but there was no motivation left. I had never felt like this before. So, I knew I had to take the call.

But why did you announce the decision on the day of the selection meeting for the first match?
Frankly, I wasn’t aware about the selection meeting. I came to know about it just a few days back. Then Sachin Tendulkar decided to retire, so I just thought of holding it for a few more days (laughs). But on a serious note, I wasn’t feeling fresh after a break. It was unusual for me. I also played a Times Shield match last week, but I felt the same.

What was the trigger?
There was nothing like that. I just did not have the motivation to continue. I am 35. How long could I have continued? At the most I could have pushed on for another season or two. But I didn’t want to take the place of a deserving youngster in the team. Maybe with the experience of this season he can develop for the next season. Anyway I had no chance of representing India again. So, there was no point continuing for another season. This is what I have learnt from my seniors. I couldn’t cheat the game which has given me so much.

Were frequent injuries another reason behind the call?
No, not really. It does become a bit difficult as you grow older especially with four-day games. But I played eight games out of 11 in the last season, which was pretty decent. But my heart said it is time to leave. There was no new boost left for me.

Did the episode with coach Sulakshan Kulkarni in the 2011-12 Ranji season have any bearing on your decision?
No, if that was the case, I would have quit the game in the same season or last season. Sometimes these things happen.
In fact, because of that episode I could continue another season as it helped me get a lot of rest. I couldn’t have asked for a better finish — lifting the Ranji Trophy in my last season.

It is double blow for Mumbai this season. Ramesh Powar left to play for Rajasthan and now your decision to retire.
But Zaheer Khan is available. We have Dhawal Kulkarni , who is doing well. Hopefully, another youngster will come through. We have good talent.

Did you consult Tendulkar before quitting?
Yes, of course. I had discussed it with him. It is a bit personal to reveal what we spoke. In the end, he was supportive. He understood what I meant.

What is your finest moment with the Mumbai team?
It has to be lifting the Ranji Trophy as captain. I am being a bit selfish here, but it was a huge honour. Nothing can match that feeling. The 2010 Ranji final (against Karnataka) at Mysore was the closest match I have played. There are many moments that I will cherish. I will miss the dressing room atmosphere. For me, it is the best place to be in. I have no regrets, no complaints. I have made the right decision.

How will life be after retirement?
I am yet to figure it out. I don’t know what I will do. But I would like to be associated with cricket in some way. But it is too early to talk about at the moment.

Agarkar’s decision shocks selectors
Ajit Agarkar’s sudden retirement also shocked the selectors, who met yesterday to pick the team for the first Ranji Trophy match against Haryana from October 27 at Lahli. “We were shocked to learn about his retirement. We were planning to appoint him as captain. We will certainly miss him,” Sudhir Naik, chief selector, told MiD DAY.

Agarkar first sent an e-mail to the joint secretary Nitin Dalal informing him about the retirement. He then made a quick trip to the MCA to meet the selectors to acknowledge their support. Naik & Co then appointed Zaheer Khan as the skipper for the first Ranji Trophy match. Rohit Sharma, the successful Mumbai Indians captain, will lead the team for the rest of the season. 

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