Life after cricket for Varsity hero Sam Agarwal

Matt Roller speaks to the man with the highest-ever Varsity score about his career

Photo: Oxford University Sport

Since 2013, only two men have scored a triple-century in a first-class match in the UK: Kevin Pietersen and Sam Agarwal.

Pietersen’s knock, a swashbuckling 355 not out against Leicestershire in a Division Two game, turned out to be his last ever in white clothing, as the very next week, England’s Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss informed him that he would not be considered for international selection going forward.

By a quirk of fate, Agarwal’s 313*—the highest ever score in a Varsity cricket fixture—was also his final first-class innings. Despite making headlines across the country and earning him a summer-long trial with Surrey, Agarwal’s innings failed to bring about the career he had dreamed of pursuing.

“I will never forget that game,” the 26-year-old told Cherwell this week. “I get nostalgic every time I watch the video of me scoring the 300th run.

“But more than just the feeling of scoring 300, my team-mates made that so special: I could not have asked for a better way to end my time at Oxford.”

“There is a significant difference between the standard of cricket between the Varsity Match and a standard first-class fixture,” Agarwal continued, “but it’s a great feeling to be mentioned in the same breath as him [Pietersen]. I’ve always considered him an outstanding player and a true entertainer.”

The Dark Blues went on to win the 2013 Varsity Match by an innings and 186 runs, after racking up a total of 550-7 declared in the first innings. Agarwal’s knock, which came from just 312 balls and included three sixes and a gargantuan 41 fours, was described as “once-in-a-lifetime” by his coach Graham Charlesworth.

Yet this innings was no fluke: Agarwal could play. Earlier that summer, he had scored a first-class hundred against a strong Warwickshire attack, his second first-class ton after a Varsity 117 in 2010. It was no surprise that Surrey had kept tabs on him, and the opportunity to play 2nd XI cricket for them came along in 2013.

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“I’m really looking forward to continuing to work with Surrey,” he told the BBC that summer. “My next step is to score runs for them this summer and hopefully pursue a career path in cricket with them.”

“Playing at Surrey was where I enjoyed my cricket the most,” Agarwal continued to Cherwell. “I was fortunate enough to open the batting with Jason Roy, face Tymal Mills and Shaun Tait in a single match and above all share the field with Glen Maxwell in a series of 2nd XI T20 games.”

It was quite the summer for the Material Sciences student, and although the runs and wickets dried up towards the end of 2013, a professional career was still very much on the cards.

However, the Utter Pradesh-born right-hander faced a major challenge in England: the restrictions on overseas players. In order to discourage counties from recruiting too many overseas stars at the expense of the national team and the development of young English players, the England and Wales Cricket Board allow each side to field only one overseas player at a time.

That summer, Surrey’s overseas player was legendary South African batsman Hashim Amla, and Agarwal was aware that his opportunities in England would be limited: “I had to return to India.”

But over the course of the next year, Agarwal fell out of love with the game. Frustrated at a lack of opportunities to play first-team cricket, his form fell away completely, and the dream died.

“Frankly, I never really enjoyed cricket in India as much as I did in the UK, and that was the big reason for me to stop playing. Due to…a string of low scores, and the politics in the game, I decided to give it up.

“At the moment, I play cricket occasionally,” he continues. “I am the captain of the Oxford and Cambridge Society of India and play a few ‘Jazz-hat’ games every year.”

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It is sad to hear that a player whose career had so much potential has slipped away from the game to this extent, but that is the situation Agarwal finds himself in. Pursuing a career after cricket, he co-founded an app, MyVote.Today, which aimed to “improve the standards of democracies across the world” by providing a quick and easy way to collate polling data.

“We found it difficult to monetise the traffic we gained through Twitter and on the app,” he said, regretting an opportunity missed.

“Now, I am working with my father at Indian Ceramic House. We manufacture precious metals for the tableware and glass industry: [it is] quite closely related to my Material Science degree.”

Asked for his advice to his Fresher self, Agarwal commented “each student faces numerous opportunities during their time at Oxford and often fail to recognise their importance, because they are too busy and think they will come around again…my advice would be not to take things for granted.” It seemed a cathartic reply from a man who is now finding that despite his regrets, there is life after cricket.