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Kohli can be made captain for all formats, says Ajit Agarkar

Ajit Agarkar

Ajit Agarkar   | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

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Sunday Chat: Ajit Agarkar

After bidding goodbye to international cricket Ajit Agarkar has kept himself busy with media work with Espncricinfo and playing serious golf. Recently, partnering Shabbir Rawjee, he won the BMR World Corporate Golf Challenge and earned a trip for the 22nd Annual World Corporate Golf Challenge in Cascais, Portugal. Taking time off from his IPL media work, Agarkar spoke to The Hindu about his passion for golf, IPL, leg-spinners, Virat Kohli and the eagerness to know who would be India’s coach. Excerpts:

You seem to be pretty serious about taking up golf...also the BMR World Corporate Golf Challenge title has come your way?

It’s all fun..good fun. I want to improve and become a better golfer. I want to enjoy the sport. I have always wanted to play golf; I was too tired (of playing it) after playing a day of cricket, but I wish I had. I picked up golf immediately after I retired. The late Rajesh Sanghi (who played for Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy and died young at 42) wanted me to play golf. I dilly-dallied a bit, when I was playing cricket. So after I retired, he (Rajesh) said I must start playing. In 2014 I was in Bangalore for the IPL media work and started playing at the KGA course. And I tried to work on it a bit in Mumbai. I want to get better at it; certainly it’s not something of a time pass. There was the young Srikanth at the Wellington Gymkhana Golf Club (Mahalaxmi) ...he coaches there. I just wanted to get my game in order and not really get bothered about the equipment initially.

Would you consider yourself a decent golfer now?

Ya ya. I think my handicap is around 12 or 13. I am definitely getting better. I see a lot of golf on television. I have always followed Tiger Woods. I also see lot of Anirban Lahiri...great to see an Indian right up there amongst these great professional golfers. I also see Jason Day play now.

So what does your good friend Sachin Tendulkar say about your golfing skills and success?

I don’t know... you have to ask him. I played a few rounds with him two months back. He’s got great hands, but I don’t think he plays as much as me. I have also seen photos of him playing golf.

This year’s IPL has been quite different in many ways...it’s gone to the last few matches in terms of identifying the teams for the playoffs?

Yes, one could not predict the top four this time. It has kept the interest going a lot more. Some of the top teams have really had it “up and down” in form. I don’t know if it was because of the hangover of the ICC World Twenty20...we have had a barrage of Twenty20 starting from the series in Australia. I think most of the teams started a bit slow. Maybe the pitches were initially a bit on the slower side. Teams that batted first did not know the totals to get. But I think it was partly due to the amount of cricket most players had played in the last four months.

Do you think the teams were better prepared...the point position on the table is very tight?

I think even 14 points could get a team into the fourth position. I cannot say if teams have been better prepared, but I think teams like Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) is quite settled, than the other teams. RCB has been late to strike form. The top teams have not been consistent. Look at Sunrisers Hyderabad — on paper, their bowling department seems to be very good. But you would not have picked them in the top four at the start of the tournament; but they have been riding on their bowling and on David Warner. So teams like SRH have taken the opportunities. Mumbai Indians dropped a lot of points and went into a rut; they have so many wins and losses.

This has also been Virat Kohli’s IPL..he’s shown phenomenal consistency?

Though these are astonishing numbers, one has to look at things in the correct perspective. Twenty20 is the hardest and most demanding and he’s shown consistency...one can be consistent getting 30s and 40s...but to get four hundreds is indeed a phenomenal feat. I think he believes that he cannot get out; this must be the impression most people who have seen him play in the IPL get. I don’t think he’s worried that anyone can get him out. It’s up to the bowlers to do better now ...Virat is making it all too easy.

I cannot pin point what he’s doing, but it all started in Australia. That was the first time I saw Virat as a lot more aggressive player.

His strike rate went up (90*, Adelaide, strike rate 163. 64, 59*, Melbourne, 178.79 and 50, Sydney, 138.89). He has always scored runs in Test matches, he has constructed his innings in ODIs, but it’s the names of Suresh Raina and Chris Gayle that come up in Twenty20 cricket for their consistency.

I think Virat is just carrying on the confidence he got in Australia. I think it’s up to the bowlers to make it harder for him; you generally talk of four centuries in a career in Twenty20, this is four in an IPL season.

Do you think the approach of Gayle and AB. de Villiers has finally rubbed off on him, in the contest of being very fearless?

I am sure it would have probably helped. In fact he’s helping the other guys in the team by what he is doing now. You watch him bat and after a couple of overs, you don’t feel he will get out... which is a scary sign. The advantage the bowlers may still have is the fact that Virat plays proper cricket shots. So try and bowl those lines the moment one finds him unstoppable. I think one of his hundreds came in the 16th over; even considering the Bangalore ground; it’s high scoring. But still to get four hundreds and the manner he does, he’s to be a special player. And he’s still picking the ball on its merit and playing. I think he’s from a different planet as far as Twenty20 is concerned.

Should Virat Kohli be given India captaincy for all formats?

I think so. He’s already the Test team captain. It is another four years for the next World Cup. If he’s likely to lead India in the next World Cup, why not make him the ODI captain now itself. One can take M.S. Dhoni’s example. He captained India in 2008 and India won the World Cup in 2011.

captain needs a bit of time and sometimes fresh ideas do help. In my opinion he should be ODI captain...and also Twenty20. One can understand MS leading in the ICC World Twenty20...but there is nothing on the horizon now.

Look, if MS wants to play and is scoring runs...there is no reason why he should not be playing. MS has been at the helm for almost nine years ....that’s a long time....sometimes for a team to go forward, fresh ideas may help.

The wrist spinners have taken 87 wickets (at the conclusion of Friday’s match) and the finger spinners 69...do you see anything in M. Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal? Amit Mishra though is a proven hand?

Well, India is playing lot of Test matches over the next 12 months. I am sure the selectors are looking at bowlers. There are bowlers who are more in tune with Twenty20 requirement. If you have a good leg-spinner, you should always play him. But I would not jump the gun based on Twenty20 performances. I would look at them the way they bowl in first-class cricket. We all know what Mishra can do. I mean one can look around and see who is good in the short formats.

I think Mishra has had a fantastic IPL in the last few years. I was a little bit surprised that there were two left-arm spinners (Ravindra Jadeja and Pawan Negi) in the squad for the World Twenty20. Probably there was a chance to get him in. The leg-spinners will always get you wickets...the way the game is going, you cannot stop the good leg-spinners from getting wickets. Even a chinaman bowler..why not?

Jasprit Bumrah, what do you make of him? Ricky Ponting says he has skills and hence ready for Test cricket?

I think he’s been the find of the season. There is no doubt about it. Ricky is right. What I like about Jasprit is that he’s put in those two or three years of first-class cricket and he knows that he can last matches of longer duration. I know how hard the Ranji Trophy matches are...he’s taken wickets for Gujarat, there’s no reason why he will not be successful elsewhere. Playing in India he will get a bit of reverse also.

Do you think he should be picked for the away series in the West Indies?

It all depends ...Ishant Sharma will be there....Umesh (Yadav) and Varun Aaron are there, Mohammad Shami is back, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is bowling quite well...I have not seen much of Barinder Sran...We don’t know the kind of pitches that will be prepared for the Test series. But I am sure Jasprit Bumrah is knocking hard.

There’s been a lot of talk around the appointment of a coach for the Indian team...Sunil Gavaskar says Rahul Dravid would be ideal and Kohli has recommended Daniel Vettori? Ponting says the BCCI will listen to its Test captain Kohli.

Rahul retired not long ago and he’s been very busy. He’s still done a lot of work. He’s a great candidate. No one can dispute that.

I think the BCCI will ask Virat as well. When you are going to play so many Test matches in the next 12 months, you want the captain and coach to work together.

The BCCI should resolve it quickly. This has dragged on a little. One would like this to get settled quickly.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 3:56:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/sport/kohli-can-be-made-captain-for-all-formats-says-ajit-agarkar/article8631034.ece

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