Don't Believe There is Competition But No Room for Complacency in Indian Team: Agarwal
From wondering whether he will ever play for India, to becoming the team’s first choice opener, 28-year-old Mayank Agarwal has come a long way.
Having made his debut in December 2018 during the away series against Australia, Agarwal has also gained the experience of playing in West Indies where he had mixed scores of 5, 16, 55 and 4, and in an interview with TOI, he said that international cricket is making him work harder.
“Nothing has changed. It is still the same in terms of preparations and working hard,” he said when asked about what he feels the differences between international cricket and domestic cricket are.
“Probably, I’m just working harder. I believe you have to get fitter and better. I think now I understand my game better. Also, I’m more mature in terms of how I respond to different conditions and situations. For example, if there is a green-top or damp wickets, I make better decisions on what strengths to stick to.”
Agarwal also said that for him to keep up with the intensity of how the Indian team plays, it was important for him to work on his fitness. He recounted his experience of batting with captain Virat Kohli during a passage of play in the second Test in India’s tour of the West Indies, when India were reeling at 46/2.
With Roach at the peak of his powers, it was important for India to lay a foundation. “Virat came into bat about half hour before lunch. The first thing we spoke about was getting a partnership going. We said, ‘Let’s not take any chance, let’s hold on to both ends till lunch and then come out.’ So we were tight and cautious,” Agarwal said.
“After lunch, Virat went bang, bang, bang and suddenly upped the ante. What I took from Virat’s batting is intensity and mindset in terms of how he looks at and reads situations. He also brings in a lot of energy. He is the guy at the forefront, leading by example. There were so many guys doing the job well, Jinks (Ajinkya Rahane), (Hanuma) Vihari. It is great to be involved with a team like this.”
Even after making his India debut, Agarwal has been a regular for the India A side, and even featured for the team in the West Indies before the main series began. He scored 81 against West Indies A at Port of Spain, and the right-hander could not speak highly enough of how the A team matches are helpful in preparing for the real deal.
I think it helps tremendously. You get to play in conditions which are as close as you can get in a Test series. Every country is putting out quality teams when you are playing A team tournaments. Game time coupled with runs, experience and understanding gives you a lot of information, knowledge, confidence and feedback to go out and play the bigger matches. There is no better preparation than the A series,” Agarwal said.
“It is great to be in an environment where you have to be at your best always because there is no room for being casual or complacent. It not only helps the players, but it also helps cricket in India. I don’t believe there is competition in the team. We are with each other, playing with each other, against an opposition.”
Domestic cricket was where Agarwal earned his stripes, and he believes that the experiences he had playing first class cricket were what has made him the batsman that he is today. He continues to hold the whole setup in high regard.
“I believe in playing a lot of matches. Domestic cricket in my opinion is very important. As a player, you cannot disregard it. Whatever you do, you cannot forget that it is the foundation. There is a lot of grind and situation you go through in domestic cricket, so it teaches you a lot as a person and a cricketer,” Agarwal said.
“Personally, it’s been a great teacher. When I was younger, there were times when I didn’t know if I would play international cricket. It felt like I was in the middle of the sea, but domestic cricket teaches you to just continue swimming. That’s when you get to know if you have it in you to put in the hard yards.”
Finally, Agarwal said that he was looking forward to playing his first Test on home soil against South Africa next month.
“Playing at home is always special and I’m really looking forward to the series. There was a lot I learnt in Australia, there was even more learning in the West Indies. I’m working on what I’ve learnt and I’m eager to go out and put those lessons to use against South Africa and have a good series at home .”