Earlier this week, after MS Dhoni played a match-winning innings, dozens of tweeters went after Ajit Agarkar for having asked to scrutinize Dhoni’s role. The former medium pacer though, no stranger to witch hunts, was teeing off on the sultry match day in Mumbai right through this unexpected troll wave.
When Agarkar hung up his spikes exactly two years ago, he had over 200 international games and a Ranji trophy to his name. He also had an old demand from his friend Rajesh Sanghi, of taking up golf, one that he could not say no to. The diminutive man is now at the cusp of a learning curve in golf, and although Sanghi passed away last October, he left behind something more than just a habit.
At the tony Willingdon Sports Club of South Mumbai, Agarkar’s first few weeks were, let’s just say, rougher than bowling to an in-form Gilchrist or Afridi. “I was terrible!” he admits, “You’re so used to play a moving ball, so the mind takes a while to adjust. Swinging without using wrists but with your bigger muscles? It’s much tougher than it seems… I got blisters on my hand!”
It may be the ‘khadoos’ attitude of a Mumbai cricketer, but Agarkar did quite the opposite of giving up after the rocky start. “I was keen to learn – so it didn’t take much to get over those frustrating few weeks. Golf’s challenges, such as extending the arms, getting the swing right – even the relentless walking in our heat are unique, and I’m pretty much hooked now,” he says.
For want of better weather and a coach, Agarkar has spent quite a bit of time in the past year at Bangalore’s Karnataka Golf Association, often competing with boys half his age. “The first time I got a hole-in-one, people around me got more excited than myself, so I suppose that was a big deal!” he already has bragging rights. “I’m at 14 now, but I play a lot, in fact whenever I get even a little time… so I aim to hit a single handicap over the next year,” he tells us.
The light-eyed sportsman has also learnt that Bangalore provides for a much better environment for the sport than his hometown. “It’s damn difficult to get access in a city like Mumbai, and even when you do, the membership fees and then the green fees can get very expensive. Bangalore is more open – anyone can walk into a club, pay and play,” he feels. That said, with a family in tow and a son who’s just turned 10, it’s unlikely Agarkar would even contemplate moving cities.
A vocal appreciator of Anirban Lahiri, he may want to test his skills against other accomplished Indian golfers but not without upping his game skills. “Golf has given new dimensions to my patience! I’m always coping with the speed of the game, slowing myself down. If your opponent senses you’re being hurried, he will deliberately try to disturb your rhythm,” he explains.
He’d also want to tee off some day with his Mumbai junior Rohit Sharma. “He might be pretty good, look at his swing and balance with the cricket bat!” Agarkar smiles.
For now, the man who created ripples for being the fastest bowler to reach 50 wickets, is in no similar rush in his second innings.