Reliving Ajit Agarkar’s 6/41 In Australia, His Single Greatest Contribution To Indian Cricket
Okay let’s face it, Ajit Agarkar is not the most popular fast bowler to don Indian colours. But we should cut the man some slack at least on his birthday today.
He was once the fastest ever bowler to pick up 50 ODI wickets and is still the fastest Indian to 150, 200 and 250 ODI scalps. His single greatest contribution to Indian cricket though will remain to be that six-wicket haul in Adelaide that set up a famous win against Australia in 2003.
Following encouraging performances under an aggressive captain in Sourav Ganguly ahead of the 2003/04 tour down under, a determined Team India was expected to put up a better fight than their predecessors against the mighty Kangaroos. The absence of Shane Warne — after a failed dope test — and fitness concerns in the Australian fast bowling department meant the window for an upset was larger than it seemed.
The teams came into the second Test at the Adelaide Oval after sharing the spoils in the series opener. But a crushing double hundred from home captain Ricky Ponting resulted in a mammoth 556-run first innings total and a major psychological advantage for the Aussies. Ganguly’s headache was further compounded when India lost four without even getting close to avoiding the follow-on, but then the famous Rahul Dravid-VVS laxman pairing came back to haunt the Baggy Greens yet again.
The lead for the hosts was cut down to merely 30-odd runs after a 303-run stand and the match looked like it headed for a draw by around mid-way on Day 4. But Ajit Agarkar, who had the unfortunate record of seven consecutive ducks against Australia, was out to extract revenge. He got rid of Justin Langer and Ponting in his first spell before returning later in the innings to sweep away the tail.
India were set a target of 230, which proved to be a fascinating chase on Day 5. But by the end of it, Rahul Dravid took India past the finish line for a 1-0 lead in the series. India would go on to lose the third test and eventually end as joint winners of the four-match series 1-1.
But the series did produce moments of brilliance from almost every member of the squad, including Ajit Agarkar. The ‘Bombay Duck’ might be the butt of many a fan joke on social media even up till today, but he will never be forgotten for his match-winning heroics during the 2003/04 Australian summer. Happy birthday Ajit!
Image courtesy: Screengrab