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PTI

Mumbai, May 4: Failure to cement a place in India's Test squad despite being in the game for eight years is Ajit Agarkar's biggest regret but the paceman believes that his ability to get wickets with the old ball will now help him to strengthen his claim for a Test slot.

Agarkar said frequent injuries and the team management's preference for an additional spinner in home matches had hampered his Test career which has seen him play just 28 matches since his debut in 1998-99.

The emergence of a host of promising fast bowlers will make his task even more difficult but the Mumbai speedster sees it as a "healthy development" as it will put pressure on him to perform.

"It's a healthy development. It's very good for the team, the advent of two or three young pacers who have done well. They are all between 22 and 24 years in age and the future looks good", Agarkar told PTI in an exclusive interview.

"More competition is always good for the team as well as for individuals as you know you have to keep performing," the 28-year-old bowler said.

Agarkar felt not having had an extended run could be one reason why his record in the longer version of the game was not as impressive as the one-dayers.

"I have not got many Tests in a row. Injuries are part of the reason, while the preference of others, including an extra spinner at home, over me is another," he said.

Agarkar's Test and ODI bowling averages throw up a fine study in contrast.

He has played in only 28 Tests since his debut against Zimbabwe at Harare in 1998-99 and in comparison has represented the country in as many as 159 ODIs.

While he has only 58 wickets to his credit at a high average of 47.38 in Tests, Agarkar has grabbed 243 wickets in ODIs averaging a far more impressive 27.48 per wicket.

The bowler explained the difficulties faced by him to get back into Test match rhythm after playing a lot of ODIs.

"In one-dayers you are given only ten overs to bowl and you are focused on this. But when you are away from Test cricket and then are included things are different," he said.

However, Agarkar does not feel that his lack of success at the Test level could be because of the perceived inability to do well with the old ball as with the new cherry.

"I had taken four of the six wickets at Adelaide with the old ball. I am comfortable bowling with the old ball too. I have been playing international cricket for eight years now," he said.

Agarkar pointed out that he had played only three full series in his career so far.

"I played all the Tests on the last two tours to Australia (in 1999-00, 2003-04). I played in two Tests against Sri Lanka in the series at home but the Test at Chennai was washed out," he said.

Incidentally his best bowling figures in both forms of cricket, 6 for 41 in the Adelaide Test and 6 for 42 against Australia at Melbourne, had both come on the last visit Down Under.

Injuries have not helped the bowler, who works up good pace belying his slight build, in cementing his place in the Test team and the last one - against Pakistan before the second match at Faisalabad earlier this year - once again cost him his place in the squad.

"I played in the first Test (at Lahore), missed the second at Faisalabad because of injury and then was not included in the eleven for the third (at Karachi)," he said.

Agarkar could not regain his place in the Test matches against England but figured in the subsequent one-day rubber.

The wiry paceman said he was keen to retain his place for the subsequent four-Test series in the Caribbean but his focus at the moment was doing well in the limited over series.

"I hope so (to retain his place in the Test squad). But I am focusing to do well in the one-dayers rather than worrying about my spot in the Test team. I try to do what's in my hands and the ODIs are being played first," he said.

The squad for the Tests is to be announced by the national selectors after the third ODI on May 24 at St Kitts.

On his preparations for the West Indies tour, he said "we have all been given a work schedule by the trainer (Greg King) and I am adhering to it. The focus is now on fitness and bowling every alternate day at the nets," he said. 

  

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