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Interview

Prajakta Pawar in Johannesburg

Out-swinger is still my stock ball: Agarkar

DD pacer talks about his fast bowling style and his team’s CLT20 2012 run

He once owned the record for being the fastest to reach 50 ODI wickets and has even scored a century at Lords. So, it came as no surprise when Ajit Agarakar guided the Delhi Daredevils to a thrilling victory against the Perth Scorchers in CLT20 2012. Coming in at No.9, the experienced campaigner took the team across the finish line in a nail-biting game with a young Pawan Negi at the other end. Earlier in the match he had claimed two wickets while conceding only 14 runs and pulled off two brilliant catches.

It is his hard work, experience and work ethic that has helped the 34-year-old make valuable contributions to the team’s cause. In a side packed with young pacer and explosive batsman, Agarkar is a handy bat lower down the order and strives to stem the flow of runs and pick wickets in the middle-overs with the ball.

In an interview with clt20.com, the seasoned campaigner spoke about bowling and adapting to different conditions and situations. He also talked about his match-winning performance and his role in the Daredevils set-up.

Excerpts from his interview:

You contributed with bat and ball; it must have been pleasing. What did the performance mean to you?

Yes, very pleasing and especially if you end up winning, it’s always nice because when you are playing, you want to play a part in team’s victories. It’s a nice feeling because we were in a spot towards the end while batting and needed to win that because otherwise we would have put too much pressure on the last game so at least we are in a decent position.

What was your advice to Negi while batting out there?

Not much, I was just asking him to try and watch the ball and just try and connect basically which even I was trying to do because in that situation you try and swing as hard as you can because you know you need a boundary or two. So, I just asked him to watch the ball nothing else because he is a good enough batsman to hit big shots but sometimes you tend to rush it a bit under pressure. Nothing too complicated, juts try and watch the ball because we couldn’t afford any dot balls at that point.

He might gain a little bit from the experience from these situations, but as I said he is a very good player. I am sure it has given him a good confidence boost to hit that boundary, the winning runs. So yeah, it is experience that teaches you. Not that it works out for you all the time but at least you try and make the right decisions under pressure.

You have been bowling in the middle overs and TA Sekar had mentioned that is an advantage that DD has a specialist fast bowler like you to bowl in middle overs while some teams make do with part-timers. Tell us about your role and bowling later in the innings.

We have Morne [Morkel], Umesh [Yadav] and Irfan [Pathan] who likes to bowl with the new ball, he swings the new ball, so you have got to try and adapt. Sometimes it is a tough situation to come in if the batsman is going [after the bowling and scoring runs] already when you come in to bowl. In T20 you need to have a little bit of luck. It doesn’t go your way every day but you basically know what needs to be done. You try not to panic in those middle phases if you can and keep it tight [then] it becomes harder for the teams [to score runs] and maybe then they try and go [hit] harder towards the end [and might lose wickets]. And Morne and Umesh have been bowling superbly towards the end. So I just try and do the basics. Some days it goes for you and some days it doesn’t. But as long as you try and execute well, or have the right ideas then on most days it will work for you.

What are the changes that you had to make to adapt?

There is more help for the seamers here. But because there is bounce in the wicket, some good shots are also played off good balls, but at least there is a little bit more help than back home which is a positive. But you still have to do the basics right. We watch videos of most batters that we play against and see where most guys have their release shot so as not to bowl there and try and avoid that. The length changes a little bit when you come as a bowler [to South Africa]; because there is bit more bounce you can afford to bowl a bit fuller. Since it is early in the season, the wickets at least early on in the game are doing little bit. But still, you are bowling to some top batters here so you have to get it right otherwise you get punished very easily.

Can controlling the ball become difficult with bounce, seam and swing in your favour? How do you work around it?

It hasn’t been too bad because anyway I bowl in the middle overs which is where the ball is not new and doesn’t swing as much. You try and get it as straight as you can, and hit the lengths more consistently. You don’t need to make too many changes with the length here because the wickets afford you a little bit more help than in India. T20 is so situational that you keep changing as the game goes on or depending on whom you are bowling to you think on your feet and be as consistent as you can in what you are trying to do.

As a senior bowler tells us about Irfan Pathan and Umesh Yadav

In the IPL all the two of them did really well. They have done exceedingly well. Umesh has been probably the find for India in the last couple of years. The speed at which he bowls you don’t find too many bowlers who bowl like that and fortunately he has been fit for the last two or three years. And Irfan’s had experience, he has been around for a while so he has comeback in the Indian team and trying to make a mark again.

They did so well for us throughout the IPL which helped us do well in IPL. You keep learning as you go on and it’s a tough format for a bowler and they have done very well.

They have been doing well. Try and stay as fit as you can. Try and avoid injuries, and the bowling looks after itself if you have got enough quality and you are fit enough the quality takes over.

Is T20 more taxing on the fast bowler?

It is a bit more intense over a shorter period. It takes a lot out of you physically but it is still just 20 overs, if your fitness is not good enough to run around for 20 overs then you are not good enough to play. It is a bit more intense than taxing. It demands a physically a bit more off you for that one-and-half hour period.

So what has been your fitness mantra?

Just hard work off the field and a lot more bowling when required. I try and keep myself as fresh as I can. The body has been through a lot of wear and tear over the years. The fitness aspect off the field is very important to stay fit on it. It just comes down to work ethic and following some routines that you have developed over the years knowing your body a bit better as you go along. Knowing what you can push yourself through and what you can’t; so be smarter.

Once I am into the season I don’t try and use up too much energy in between games I try and conserve a little bit because you have to be able to bowl better in difficult situations. Luckily we play for Mumbai where we play with four or five bowlers always. And all are quality bowlers so it takes the burden off you a little bit. But as I said, try and keep fresh and strong.

What is the key to your yorkers?

Practice! I have generally had a slingy action. It changed over the course of my career but you have to practice for it in the nets because if you don’t, then you don’t get it right. If you marginally miss it then the ball lands in the stands these days with the hitting power that there is all around the world. So you got to practice it. You try and get it as full as you can, even a low full toss you are happy with that instead of bowling a half volley so it’s just practice.

I haven’t made any dramatic changes. With injuries and everything you try and develop certain things. I still the bowl out-swinger which was always my stock ball. I just try and be consistent with my length.

Talk us through the changes that have occurred in bowling over the years

Massive! When I started playing one-day cricket a lot more power had started coming in the game with guys like [Adam] Gilchrist and [Sanath] Jayasuriya hitting hard. And now with T20, the skill levels have definitely gone up. You have to start developing new balls because everyone from one to 11 comes and hits a six which I don’t think was the case before.

The skill levels have definitely gone up. Bowlers have started of thinking of bowling different balls too early in their careers instead of developing a stock ball but that is the need of the hour; that’s the only thing that I can see. Players are fitter now as compared to 15-20 years back. They are a lot fitter because there is a lot more awareness when you are younger about fitness, so when you come into the game at this level or are a lot fitter at least in India than before.

Everyone bowls a good slower ball, different balls, back-of-the-hand ball or something. Everyone keeps trying it [variations], whichever works for the individual [they do]. But you have to start developing different balls otherwise you are not going to survive.

How do bowlers plan differently for the different formats and for different conditions?

Planning differently is a mindset more than anything. Experience does help. It is a difficult question to answer because you just know what to do when you go and play.

You practice in the nets beforehand. If you are going to play a one-day game or T20 you practice your yorker or your slower ball bit more but when you go for practice in a four-day game or a five-day game you try and keep hitting your lengths as consistently as possible. You have to be consistent with what you know you can do. 

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