Ajit Agarkar is an enigma in Indian cricket. After a superb international debut in 1998 he has failed to maintain consistency. If it was not form, then, very often, injury conspired to keep the wiry speedster out of the side.
Agarkar missed most of India's recent tour of Pakistan due to injury, but the month-and-a-half break he had proved a blessing for him.
"It was a good break; it helped me recover and get fitter. But it really was active rest. We were exercising, but not bowling. That helped us recover our strength for the season ahead. But it's always nice to have some sort of off-season," he said on the sidelines of the pace bowlers' camp in Bangalore.
With the emergence of Irfan Pathan and Laxmipathi Balaji he faces a real threat of missing out on a place in the Indian side. The competition, he knows well enough, will be tough. But is he fazed?
"Not really," he says. "At the end of the day it is not up to me to get picked. All I can do is give my 100 per cent and perform to the best of my ability. I gained a lot of confidence from my performances in Australia. Whether I will get picked or not is a question you should be asking the selectors or Sourav Ganguly."
An injury-prone fast bowler can hardly be seen as an asset to the side, be it Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra or Agarkar. In the past the Mumbai paceman was haunted by a dicey side-on action, a weakness he did well to rectify, but his wiry frame continues to work against him.
"Injuries are part of a sportsman's career; more so for a fast bowler, because of the nature of his job. You have to accept them and deal with them to the best of your ability."
As a result of the top three bowlers spending a lot of time on the physio's table, young Pathan and Balaji have seized the chance presented to them.
"Being out of the team makes one work even harder to get back. I mean, playing for India is the biggest motivation one can ask for. I have tried to be as injury-free as possible and actually the last couple of years have been quite good in that regard.
"Competition is always healthy. When your have 5-6 bowlers fighting for spots in the team it always helps. It also keeps you on your toes and that is always good. I expect to keep giving it my best shot," declares Agarkar.
The ongoing conditioning camp for fast bowlers saw the bowlers undergo preliminary tests indoors on the first two days.
"During the next five days, Gregory King will let us know which specific parts we need to do most work on. Only then we will be able to assess where we are lacking," informed Agarkar.
Sourav Ganguly is yet to join the camp. The India skipper was scheduled to be there on Tuesday, but it is learnt that he did not make it as he has to go to Delhi for the lighting of the Olympic Torch on Thursday.
Left-arm medium pacer Irfan Pathan will also be going to Delhi to participate in the torch run and will miss the camp for a day. The Flame will come to India via a special flight from Beijing, China, who will host the next edition of the Games in 2008. Kapil Dev was also scheduled to join the camp but as he too is taking part in the Torch run, he will join the bowlers on the Friday.
Former India fast bowler Venkatesh Prasad is now coaching the under-22 NCA side. Prasad has not yet officially retired from the game but one reckons he has almost made up his mind.
His new passion is golf. He finished second in McDowell's Signature Celebrity Golf tournament in Mumbai and was seen practicing his golf swing even as the under-22 players prepared for cricket practice to begin.
The lanky medium pacer only trains the fast bowlers, two of whom have impressed him. He feels R P Singh and S R V Singh have a good future ahead of them. "At this point all they need is fine-tuning," he says.