India pace ace Zaheer Khan has come to the defence of Mumbai teammate Ajit Agarkar, who left the team in Cuttack after he was not in captain Wasim Jaffer and coach Sulakshan Kulkarni's playing XI plans. Zaheer, who is using the Ranji Trophy to get back into rhythm after an injury lay-off, is part of the playing XI against Orissa in Cuttack. (Read: Agarkar unhappy about being dropped by Mumbai)
He came out blazing against chairman of selectors Milind Rege and coach Kulkarni, who was appointed only recently. "I am not the kind of person to say all this, but I just feel that people like Rege and Sulakshan are actually pulling Mumbai cricket back," Zaheer told MiD DAY over the phone from Cuttack at the end of Day One of the four-day tie.
"This is an utter disgrace. I am very disappointed and hurt by the way the whole situation has been handled. It is high time things get sorted out. "A player who has done so much for the country and state; has taken over 300 international wickets and has been consistent performer and a certainty in the team at least deserves better communication and respect. There is no reason to humiliate someone who has done great service to your team," said Zaheer.
Agarkar dropped a bombshell when he left the team. Asked what made him take the decision, he said: "The dressing room would have been uncomfortable. I didn't want any bad vibes. As it is there is a lot of tension in a dressing room. I was obviously disappointed by the way things were done."
Agarkar was told the night before the game that he wouldn't be playing and that Aavishkar Salvi was bowling well. "I was trying to get back to bowling fitness. If they were not going to play me, they should have told me.
"I wouldn't have travelled. I was with them for two days and no one said a thing. Yesterday, they (referring to captain and coach) told me that Aavishkar was bowling well. I have returned after injury and how can I become a bad bowler after one match?
"I would have gone with a cricketing reason, but these are not cricketing grounds I am sure," said Agarkar.
Is he embarrassed? "I am not embarrassed, I am disappointed. I requested the MCA to let me leave the previous evening. They told me everything will be sorted out. But I had made up my mind," he said.
On what drives him to play first-class cricket, Agarkar (33), stressed: "I think I can make a difference to Mumbai cricket; give something back. I love playing for Mumbai." Meanwhile, Zaheer wants this episode to be a lesson for the men who run Mumbai cricket. "Things have to be handled well. Again, the least you can do is to have better communication and this holds good for other players too.
"People involved should take a lesson out of this," said the left-arm pacer, who will be on the flight to Australia next month, match fitness depending.