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?
Ajit Agarkar is still all kinds of terrible, despite taking four wickets in the fourth one-day international at Old Trafford. We’re not going to be swayed. We accept that his ball to Ian Bell was a beauty, although it was a hideously dreadful leave on Bell’s part. You don’t think it was that bad? The ball hit his stumps. It doesn’t get any worse than that.
Other than that, Agarkar’s wickets were largely the result of batsmen taking on a bad bowler. He went for a run a ball in a low-scoring game. When he came back into the attack later on, with pressure mounting, he promptly bowled two wides. That sums it up, but the wickets will save him.
Four wickets will keep in the side for a good few games. This is how he operates. He flukes a good haul of wickets in one game and then takes none for many in the next three matches.
If you’re only going to pick four bowlers in a one-day game, you’d think you’d want four good ones. Yet in an era where India’s pace bowling resources have never run deeper, there’s been one conspicuous survivor from an earlier period. Ajit Agarkar.
His survival is inexplicable. Even more inexplicable is the fact that his record stands up to scrutiny. Okay, maybe the latter explains the former, but have you seen the man bowl recently? How you can take 281 wickets at 27.66 bowling sub-medium-pace leg-side wides, we don’t know.
Agarkar used to bowl quite quickly, but not any more. He’s also without guile or accuracy. There’s been a long-standing rumour that he’s an all-rounder. He does have a Test hundred against England to his name, although with no Test fifties and only three one-day international fifties from 110 innings, that century screams ‘statistical aberration’ in a hoarse but insistent voice.