India’s Test opener Mayank Agarwal has revealed that it was some valuable advice from Rohit Sharma which helped him traverse through tough times during the Tests versus the Windies, where he averaged a meagre 20. Agarwal has further added that he is hoping to have a ‘breakthrough’ IPL season.
Such is the cutthroat competition in the Indian national team, particularly at the top of the order, that fifties are sometimes considered irrelevant and hundreds, insufficient. And no one knows it better than Mayank Agarwal who, despite having a stellar start to his Test career, found himself in deep waters pretty early on in his career. After starting his Test career off with scores of 76, 42 and 77 against a strong Australian attack, Agarwal’s world came crashing down in India’s tour of West Indies in 2019, where the opener struggled to get going.
After averaging just 30 in 4 innings in the warm-up games, Agarwal succumbed to the bounce and movement on the Caribbean wickets and strung together scores of 5, 16, 55 and 4 in the series. While his position was not ‘really’ under threat, speaking to ESPN Cricinfo, the opener has revealed that he was a nervous and anxious wreck during the series, and he calmed down only after some valuable advice from Rohit Sharma.
“I remember feeling a bit of pressure to cement my position in the Test team during the West Indies tour last year. I hadn't made too many runs in the first Test, and in between games Rohit Sharma could sense I was off a bit. He came forward to offer me some guidance, which I am extremely grateful for,” Agarwal told ESPN Cricinfo.
“We spoke a lot about how that Test series in West Indies was a different challenge for me. I had scored two half-centuries in the Test series against Australia on the last tour, so he impressed upon me that I shouldn't let that extra pressure of expectation get to me and overthink the process in the Caribbean. It definitely helped having that chat as I did go into the second West Indies Test in a more relaxed frame of mind.”
The Windies series aside, Agarwal’s Test career has been a largely successful one, but, almost ironically, the Indian Premier League (IPL) remains a stage he is yet to conquer. Ironic because it was in his early 20s that he burst on to the scene as a ‘player to watch out for’, particularly with the RCB side, and was considered a T20 specialist. After 9 seasons, having debuted in 2011, Agarwal is yet to conquer the IPL but the 29-year-old is hopeful of ‘finally’ turning the tables around the forthcoming season, in which he’ll be representing Kings XI Punjab.
“I've been scoring runs at different levels, but the fact remains I haven't had a breakthrough IPL season yet [in ten years now], so I'm looking forward to correcting that. Also, I'm looking forward to being part of a winning IPL team. I came close in 2017 [with Rising Pune Supergiant].”
The lockdown has been a torrid experience for a plethora of athletes, but Agarwal has revealed that, aside from missing out on continuity, the five-month apocalyptic period has not been ‘too tough’ for him.
“For the best part of the last ten to 12 years, I've been playing professional cricket. So a five-month break hasn't taken that much of a toll, honestly. The only challenge has been to maintain continuity, which hasn't always been possible in Bangalore. But in general, it hasn't been tough for me, personally.”