Even as the young opening pair of Kaustubh Pawar and Akhil Herwadkar started Mumbai's march on the outskirts of Cuttack, senior pro Ajit Agarkar packed his bags to leave for the Bhubaneswar airport.
After being dropped from the team for the tie against Orissa, Agarkar decided that
returning to Mumbai than staying on would be "in the best interest" of the team.
Before his departure, Agarkar put to rest the conspiracy theories following his exclusion.
Excerpts from the interview:
What are you doing in the hotel room instead of being at the ground?
I was told last night that I will not be a part of the playing eleven. Rather than sitting in the dressing room and making it a tense place, I felt it would be better if I left for Mumbai.
Why haven't you accepted the decision sportingly?
Having served Mumbai for so long, I deserved to be told about my exclusion well in advance. Had they told me that I was not going to be a part of the eleven in Mumbai, I wouldn't have travelled with the team. Instead, I would have trained harder in Mumbai.
Did you have an argument with anyone during the team meeting last evening?
No. In fact, I wasn't even informed about the eleven during the team meeting. It was followed by the bowlers' meeting and at the end of it I was told I could not be accommodated.
How did you react?
I asked them (captain and coach) why? They tried to justify it by saying Aavishkar (Salvi, who is returning from an ailment) is bowling well. I love that boy, so I didn't say anything. But to judge my form based on just one match is too harsh.
Do you think there could be more to your exclusion than performance?
I don't think so. And I hope not. After all, I have consistently contributed to Mumbai cricket for almost 15 years. For the last two-three seasons, I've started the season slowly and by the time we played the quarterfinals, I've been in top shape. If there is more to it, it's not good for Mumbai cricket.
Do you regret leaving the team in the middle of a match?
Of course, it hurts, for I care for the team. But my decision will be better for the team than myself. As I said, had I stayed on, the dressing room would have been tense.
Was your request accepted by the team management?
The coach told me it was an administrative issue and he had no say in it. I had a word with one of the joint secretaries who said he would consult other officials and get back. I am still waiting to hear from him but I had requested him not to ask me to stay on since it could affect the team's performance.