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Decoding cricket’s evolution: Ajit Agarkar shares his insights on talent, data, and the role of IPL in providing opportunities 

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Ajit Agarkar lauds Virat Kohli’s role in revolutionizing fitness standards in Indian Cricket, in an exclusive conversation with Pranav Gandhi on SportifywithPRG

Mumbai: Settling into his role as the chairman of the BCCI selection committee, veteran Indian fast bowler, Ajit Agarkar lauded India’s vast talent pool and commended the IPL as a platform for consistently providing opportunities for upcoming cricketers. In a candid conversation on SportifywithPRG, Agarkar also offered his insightful perspective on a range of topics from the ever-evolving crucial role of data in team preparation and selection, the intricacies of his approach to the game, the impact of Virat Kohli on the fitness of Indian players and what made MS Dhoni a great captain.

“The good thing is you have a huge pool to pick from now, there is no dearth of talent in India,” emphasised Agarkar. “One thing that is a big difference, and you can see it over the last 10-15 years, is the progress in the fitness levels of players. Because of this, they can learn much quicker.” he remarked.

Agarkar elaborated on the factors behind this progress, attributing the uptick in fitness to players like Virat Kohli who have led by example. “Virat Kohli for example is one of those guys who set a benchmark, and 15 years into his career, he’s only gotten fitter. If someone like him, sets an example and puts forward certain things that you need or certain fitness levels that you need, gradually it progresses across the ecosystem,” he opined.

Highlighting IPL’s role in talent identification and promotion, the former fast bowler who is the third highest wicket-taker for India in ODIs, said, “You can see every year, the IPL just keeps throwing up fresh talent. As a selector there are certain players, we are watching out for but there are certain players who suddenly come and show up even on a big stage. It is a big stage because of the pressure involved and the big crowds. You might be bowling to the top batters in the world or facing one of the top bowlers, this is where you can judge the temperament of the player and how consistently he can do it.”

With the modern game rapidly progressing towards a more data-centric approach, the 46-year-old said, “The amount of data that’s available, is incredible. You can plan a whole innings and I think everybody does it now, but it doesn’t mean it will work all the time. You need a captain on the ground because not everything that you’ve planned is going to go your way. On a particular day it might, but most days it won’t. And that’s where you need human instinct. That’s why you call M S Dhoni a great captain because he had a feel for the game. He knew what was happening and how the game was changing.”

On using data for building out your squad composition, Agarkar further added, “You can have all the numbers at your disposal, but if you have not watched the player, it is difficult. As a coach, captain, or selector you don’t form an opinion about anyone until you see them play and how they are under pressure.”

Ajit Agarkar right

Agarkar also spoke on the importance of culture and how it is established and driven in a team environment. “You look at all the great teams, I can use the example of our Mumbai team. What really helped me was the senior guys in our team. We had players like Amol Muzumdar, Sanjay Manjrekar, and Vinod Kambli, even when I played for India, I was fortunate enough to play with some real greats of the game such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, Laxman and Zaheer Khan. When these guys are around the standard sets itself, then it’s for the players to buy into it. If your players all work in the same direction, then a coach or captain can drive and show the way,” he said.

To listen to the conversation, click on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2J6k7yniJA

 

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