An important seat has become vacant

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Frank Skinner often talks about there being different ‘seats’ for public figures. The premise is that there are certain timeless jokes which require a well-known figure with certain characteristics for the punchline and there always has to be someone to fulfil that role. The person may change, but the joke does not. There is a thick seat, a fat seat and a load of others we can’t remember off the top of our head.

The same applies in cricket. You want a cricketer who loves his food – you’ll probably still go for Mike Gatting. You want to say something about innocuous Kiwi all-rounders – Chris Harris.

We sometimes find need to call upon the person sitting in a seat which could be labelled: ‘Terrible cricketer who somehow keeps getting recalled to play for his country even though he is almost entirely without ability and there are plenty of better options available’.

Up until this week, that seat was occupied by Ajit Agarkar. But alas, no longer, for he has retired from cricket many years too late.

Which occasional international cricketer could possibly replace him?


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. I’d say MJ or Dernbach, but wasn’t Agarkar’s whole deal his blandness? Like, he’d take 1-50 from his ten overs in an ODI and score twelve from fifteen balls? Dernbach and MJ are spectacularly bad when they’re off their games, but do actually have some skills that, once a year or so, make them seem like they just need to “figure it all out.” Agarkar had nothing to figure out. He’d just do his thing and would just barely avoid being bad enough to be dropped, though nobody would ever be able to think of a particularly good reason for him to stay.

    In that spirit, I nominate: Ishant Sharma. Every now and again, someone will say “why is Ishant Sharma bowling the death overs for India? Surely there’s someone better?”, but come the next match, he’s in the team, and nobody really cares that much.

    1. The difference between Agarkar and Johnson is that we can see why Johnson is selected. There is a case for it. For us, Agarkar’s defining quality was that it was almost impossible to argue in his favour and that’s the quality we’re after.

      Dernbach probably occupies similar territory to Johnson (several feet wide of the stumps).

  2. I think the internet must be broken as this article has been online for over an hour and nobody has yet made a slight against Ravi Bopara for me to get indignant over.

    Where have all the Ravi haters gone?

    1. Since he doesn’t get picked for the Test side, I have no need to get annoyed at him being picked.

  3. Time for some Agarkar stats.

    Tests: 26
    Runs: 571
    Average: 16.79
    HS: 109*
    Wickets: 68
    Average: 47.32
    BB: 6-31

    1. Yeah was thinking kakmal purely for his glovework but he does average 30 with the bat. Up until this time last year I would have said Steve Smith but he seems to have matured a bit (or maybe the rest of the team is so terrible he doesn’t look so bad anymore). Whoever it is I’m guessing it will be a mediocre offspinner.

    2. Kamran Akmal was one player we thought of, but he’s probably saved by his batting, which can be decent. You can just about see why he’s picked when he’s at the crease.

  4. The career trajectory of Ajit Agarkar and a few other Indian pace bowlers of the late nineties would’ve been quite different had it not been for Sanath Jayasuriya.

  5. getting back to that-man-MJ a minute (since i can’t think of anyone better off the top of my head), i see his nine wicketless overs today disappeared for 68 runs, and that he contributed more than his fair share of the 26 extras which helped lose oz the match. this is all good news for the upcoming ashes (well – not good news for you, wolf… sorry about that). johnson is a confidence player and with a tonking like that under his belt, it could be some while before he recovers what was starting to look like ominously good form..?

    (he surely doesn’t qualify for agarkar’s “seat” btw, for the same reasons already outline by dan m. above: on his day, johnson is a matchwinner. his trouble, as others have pointed out before me, is that when it’s *not* his day he still tends to win matches… just not for australia.)

    1. Batting average around 20, bowling around 30. I agree that MJ is generally not an asset to his team but you couldn’t say that he’s entirely without ability. His failing is that he doesn’t perform to the fullness of his ability very often.
      I don’t know if Sri Lanka has enough depth to be regarded as having ‘better options available’ but maybe someone like Dhammika Prasad could fit the bill?

  6. If you go into the away dressing room at Lord’s, you will see Agarkar’s name on the honours board for scoring 100+, albeit in a losing cause, for India in 2002.

    There are some fine players who have missed out on the Lord’s honours board altogether, not least that other Mumbai maestro.

    They don’t mean all that much, but these are facts.

    1. A couple more: (a) Agarkar was the fastest Indian to 50 ODI wickets, and until Mendis overtook him, the fastest of all time, and (b) Agarkar still holds the record for the fastest ODI half century by an Indian.

      He’s a strange one, that Ajit

    2. This is unacceptable! Lay off Agarkar. He has cult hero status.

      And what’s to debate, the seat was made for Ishant Sharma.

    3. We just Googled Ishant Sharma and the three Google News excerpts presented at the top of the results page were:

      What is wrong with Ishant Sharma?

      Ishant Sharma should not be written off based on two matches, says Virat Kohli

      You can’t drop Ishant Sharma on basis of two matches: Virat Kohli

      Admittedly, two of those are the same, but it was still an interesting snapshot.

    4. And Cricinfo’s headline and subheading are especially brutal:

      India’s blunt spearhead
      Ishant Sharma has been a disappointment in ODIs, proving ineffective with new ball and old for the majority of his six-year career

    5. Imagine if a global website published such a damning analysis of your career.

      “Sam’s performance at work has been lacklustre, inefficient and pathetic for six years.”

    6. “Sam’s performance at work has been lacklustre, inefficient and pathetic for six years.”

      That must be a real gutpunch. I think simply looking a screen of commentary and stats makes oone forget there is a young man at the end of it. He must have a gulp in his throat reading these headlines. Fortunately he has an adam’s apple the size of wonka’s chocolate factory to hold that gulp.

  7. I always have been reading comments about how the comments space is the point of this website.
    I have always been able to relate to that vaguely.
    I had my ‘realisation’ moment today, when, for the first time on this website, moved straight to the comments space before going to the post.

    I dont know whether this information will be useful to you. Thought will just say it out

  8. Here is a fact that I found/stole

    ‘Agarkar played 191 ODIs. Here is a list of bowlers and the number of wickets they had taken by their 191st ODI:

    Brett Lee 334
    Waqar 307
    Warne 288
    Agarkar 288
    McGrath 286
    Muralidharan 282’

  9. I was thinking Angelo Mathews before I looked at his stats and saw that he averages about 40 with the bat. That’s decent enough, I guess, though only one hundred (and that a 105*) and a bowling average over 70 in tests is a bit questionable. And also Sri Lanka have gone and made him their captain, because he’s young-ish I guess? Nobody really seems to mind, either.

    I dunno, I still feel like Ishant is the best choice. The Sri Lankan fast bowlers not named Kulasekara or Malinga (Eranga, Prasad, Lakmal) all just seem to be the best of a bad lot, whereas Ishant can’t possibly be the best fast bowler in India, but everyone seems to accept that he’s fine. Hughes at least has his mountain of Shield runs to justify selection.

  10. from this comment,i understand you are not at all having any knowledge about cricket.Ajit Agarkar is a legend. damn you!

    1. The lack of space after the full stop is an excellent detail for connoisseurs of this kind of thing.

  11. His last international was less than a month after the 2007 article. You need to accept some responsibility for this one, I’m afraid.

  12. Unusually I can’t think of someone that fits the bill in the current NZ team; surely i’m wrong? That sort of selection policy was our specialty for years.

    1. Good call; he seems to be on the outer now though. It was always bizarre how crap he was in tests and 98.5% of the ODI’s and T20’s he played. I watched him bat in the domestic 4-day compitition a few times, and he always looked a genuine good quality batsman.

  13. “I saw him on TV, bowling his out swing in the same way I used to do it. Then when he came out to bat, he had exactly the same stance. I called my wife from the top floor. Unfortunately, he was out by the time she came down. But she too agreed, yes he plays exactly like you” Manoj Prabhakar, Former India cricketer and cricket expert on ABC News.
    – Manoj Prabhakar on Agarkar.
    Quoted in

  14. I nominate Stuart Matsikenyeri, ostensibly a top-order batsman who bowls a bit. Here are his cumulative ODI averages, a format he made his debut in back in 2002.

    First 25 ODIs (to 5th ODI Zim vs SL, 29 Apr 2004):
    245 runs @ 11.66, strike rate 58.19, high score 44
    1 wicket @ 96.0, economy 6.85, strike rate 84.0, BBI 1/31

    First 50 ODIs (to 5th ODI Zim vs Ban, 6 Aug 2006):
    836 runs @ 18.57, strike rate 64.30, high score 89
    11 wickets @ 57.27, economy 5.20, strike rate 66.0, BBI 2/33

    First 75 ODIs (to 1st ODI, Zim vs SL, 20 Nov 2008):
    1443 runs @ 21.11, strike rate 71.29, high score 89
    13 wickets @ 51.00, economy 5.24, strike rate 58.3, BBI 2/33

    First 100 ODIs (to 2nd ODI, Ban vs Zim, 29 Oct 2009):
    2054 runs @ 23.07, strike rate 72.70, high score 90
    14 wickets @ 52.00, economy 5.07, strike rate 61.4, BBI 2/33

    Career to date (112 ODIs to 3rd ODI, NZ vs Zim, 9 Feb 2012):
    2205 runs @ 22.05, strike rate 72.31, high score 90
    16 wickets @ 48.62, economy 5.07, strike rate 57.5, BBI 2/25

    Absolute legend.

    I remember pointing out to a fellow cricinfo livescore addict at uni back in late 2006 that I was perplexed why he was opening for Zimbabwe for their series in Bangladesh. At that stage his previous 56 matches had brought him a batting average of 17.90 and a bowling average of 50.38, but there he was at the top of the order. He proved the naysayers wrong, naturally – a respectable knock of 27 off 39 balls brought his average back above 19, and it’s a shame he didn’t get a chance to destroy Bangladesh with his economical offspin before they had wrapped up a nine wicket win.

    I was worried he might disappear from the face of the cricketing world, but he was still opening for his country in 2012 and as he’s still a fairly young man (born 1983) I hope to see him back where he belongs soon enough.


    #9: He never settled in at number 8, his four matches there yielding just 27 runs.

    #8: The number five slot, where in 23 matches he scored 387 runs @ 18.42, bolstered by an excellent top-scoring 73* that brought his team to tie the famous world cup match against Ireland.

    #7: Not entirely comfortable against the new ball, his 21 matches coming in at number one led to 407 runs @ 19.38. But he did score a half-century against the mighty Bangladesh in their home fortress of Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka.

    #6: He did somewhat better at number two, with 215 runs @ 19.54 in 11 matches. This includes 73 against England at Bulawayo in 2004 and 75 against Bangladesh in Mirpur in 2006.

    #5: His three innings at number four (ave 21.00) included a vital half-century against Kenya at the Nairobi Gymkhana, helping his team recover from 2/2 to complete the chase.

    #4: Coming in at first drop, a respectable 201 runs @ 20.10 in 10 matches. The highlight was 90 against Kenya at Mobassa.

    #3: The position he spent most time in was number six, with 635 runs in 28 matches @ 27.60. Includes a match-winning 89 in a tight victory over Bangladesh at Harare.

    #2: One innings at number 10, one not-out run, a batting average that is technically better than whatever Bradman would have made if he’d play in ODIs (and got out at some point).

    #1: Taking responsibility for his team in the vital number seven slot, with half-centuries against the Windies and South Africa, saw him score 269 runs at an excellent 33.62. He also managed his best strike rate in this position, a Bradmanesque 99.26.


    Number 11. Apparently he was too good for it, but tell that to Wilfred Rhodes or Ashton Agar.

    Number 9. Did some idiotic selector mistakenly believe he was insufficiently versatile? After all, you can play Stuart Matsikenyeri as a specialist spinner too.

    #10: a battling 9-0-62-1 that saw off Graeme Smith and helped restrict the Saffers to 301/7 in Johannesburg 2005.
    #9: a stirring 3-0-31-1 which stumped Marlon Samuels, in Bulawayo 2003.
    #8: a handy 4-0-18-1 against England featuring the wicket of Paul Collingwood, in Harare 2004.
    #7: an executed 2-0-15-1 that grabbed the wicket of Sri Lankan top-scorer Upul Tharanga at the 2006 Champions Trophy.
    #6: a sterling 10-0-29-1 that helped restrict Sri Lanka to 152 all out before yet another Murali rescue job, in Harare, 2008.
    #5: a bracing 10-0-43-2 against England, with Solanki and Bell the only wickets of the former colonial overlords to be snared in the match, in Bulawayo, 2004.
    #4: an identikit 10-0-43-2 against the world-class Aussies, helping restrict them to 323/8 while humbling Darren Lehmann and Ian Harvey, in Harare, 2004.
    #3: a KP-felling 10-1-35-2 that showed right-arm spinners can do it too, in Bulawayo, 2004.
    #2: a mighty 5-0-25-2 that couldn’t quite stop Bangaldesh squeaking home by 1 wicket in Chittagong, 2009.
    #1: the devastating 10-0-33-2 that rocked Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss in Harare, 2004.


    The who’s who list of renowned batsmen have fallen to Stuart Matsikenyeri includes Graeme Smith, Darren Lehmann, Kevin Pietersen, Kumar Sangakkara, Paul Collingwood, Michael Vaughan, JP Duminy, Shakib Al Hasan, Marlon Samuels, Vikram Solanki, Upul Tharanga, Ian Harvey and Mushfiqur Rahim.

    But Matsikenyeri’s Bunny Di Tutti Bunnies is Andrew Strauss, dismissed twice in England’s 2004 tour.


    5th ODI, Zim vs SL at Harare, 29 Apr 2004. The 32nd over of the Sri Lankan innings sees six balls to Thilina Kandamby (remember him? I remember thinking of him as the kind of cricketer who should really have been playing for Pakistan) with no runs conceded. This softened Kandamby up so that he could be dismissed by talismanic Zimbo wicketkeeper-batsman-captain Tatenda Taibu, who somehow found the time to bowl 10-1-42-2.

    4th ODI, Zim vs Eng at Bulawayo, 5 Dec 2004. Geraint Jones faces in the 27th over of the England innings, and Matsikenyeri executes six dot balls. Did Jones ever recover? He now plays his international cricket for Papua New Guinea, in which capacity he was recently dismissed for 7 against Italy and 3 against Nepal. The moral of this story is never let Stuart Matsikenyeri bamboozle you with six balls of gently offspinning goodness or the gradual build-up of psychological pressure will destroy your top-flight cricketing career. Alternatively, having survived six consecutive deliveries of Matsikenyeri magic, perhaps you are finally qualified to vanquish one of the greatest sides ever and win an MBE for it. In this case, morally, at least 5% of that MBE belongs to Stuart Matsikenyeri for his vital training role.

    1. We’re not sure a comment on this site has ever featured better subheadings or more comprehensive research. Sure, comments don’t normally feature subheadings, but we hope you’ll take that as a compliment anyway.

    2. Well, I’ve very suddenly developed an interest in, and knowledge of Stuart Matsikenyeri. Didn’t see that coming.

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