Mayank Agarwal comes across as a humble, soft-spoken man from Karnataka cricket. One of the batting nurseries in the country, Karnataka has produced many down-to-earth, grounded cricketers in the past. One such face that comes across your mind is Rahul Dravid, the man who is respected all over the world for his self-effacing demeanour and soft nature. And when you look at the current crop, there is not huge difference in the way they carry themselves on the field — KL Rahul, Manish Pandey. Mayank is cut from the same cloth.
When it comes to the ability of scoring runs, he is right up there as well. In fact, in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season, he surpassed all benchmarks and scored 1160 runs in 13 innings, which was the highest in that season. He did not just stop there. Mayank ensured he made the right noises and the one way to do that was to score runs in the one-day domestic tournament — Vijay Hazare Trophy. He amassed 723 runs in eight innings in that 2017-18 season, a record in any Inter-State Domestic List-A Tournament.
All those achievements and feats were noted by critics and fans alike, and plaudits justifiably flown in. Yet, Mayank is still awaiting an India call-up. On being asked to comment on the continued snub, he chose to keep it straight and simple.
"I think I am very happy with the progress. I am very happy with the way I am batting. I am in a great mindspace and I want to continue batting and scoring runs," the right-handed batsman said.
Further, he brushed aside suggestions that his lack of IPL form may have put him out of favour with the national selectors.
"Scoring 2000 runs in a domestic season is not a joke. I am very, very happy with the way I am batting. Yes, I did not have a good IPL. I have to look at my performances as a whole season and not just one tournament. I cannot say that I need to do well only in this tournament. I understand that I have not done well in IPL but if I have to look at whole year, I think I am batting extremely well," the 27-year-old said.
Despite his IPL failures this year, he batted well when the bigger challenges presented themselves. On his recent tour to England with India 'A', he hit two centuries in the one-day tri-series, despite failing in two unofficial Tests against England Lions and West Indies 'A'.
Mayank summed up the experience as "fantastic", but conceded that conditions in England were challenging for batting. "I think it was a fantastic tournament, we got to learn a lot. It was a great experience to play in England for the first time. It was great to play for the first time against the Dukes balls in English conditions. It gave us great exposure."
"The challenge as a batsman was that you were never set. There is a lot of wind and the ball keeps moving almost all day long. And in a match, it is very important that when you are set, you take your team through. It is crucial because it is not easy for a new batsman going in to start hitting the ball from the word go. Facing the Dukes ball was a nice experience and a great challenge."
While he ended the 'A' tour with some decent knocks, his close friend KL Rahul is struggling to get going. Mayank was quick to defend his Karnataka teammate. "To be really honest, I am not too concerned about his batting as he has been batting well. I wish the best for him. I know KL is a fighter and a big score is just round the corner for him. The way he is batting and the mindset that he is in is great. He is adding a lot of value to the Indian team as a fielder as well."
One of the guiding force for him in the India 'A' team has been coach Rahul Dravid, and Mayank gave an insight into how the former India captain has been guiding the young crop.
"We keep having a chat. He, having played the game for so long and having done well for India, gives us insights on batting. We also chat a lot about the mindset as well. We chat a lot about how we approach a game, an innings or a particular session or situation. He tells a lot about finding different ways to get better."
Not a long ago, Mayank was playing 500 balls a day to remove whatever chinks there were in his technique/mindset. While he has reduced such practice sessions as the season is on, he vowed to go back and improve whenever he feels he has a weakness or two.
"I am not doing anything different. But obviously the workload of playing 500 balls per day has gone down. We have been playing so many games. That was the way I prepared pre-season. The day I feel that something is not going right, I would again go back and put in the hard yards. I will again begin playing 500 to 1000 balls per day consistently. Right now, I am batting well and quite happy with that," he said.
As the chat came to an end, Mayank sounded more relaxed and confident in his answers. On being probed, once again, on how frustrating it is to wait for an India call-up, he said, "Playing cricket is something I enjoy and look forward to every single day and that's the biggest motivation. I have always looked forward to play this sport and will continue do so." While this may not answer that question, it certainly is the right sentiment at this stage of his career.