India vs South Africa: Grind of domestic to glory of internationals - Mayank Agarwal completes full circle with maiden Test ton
For what is faith, how is it built, what does it take to keep it going? Away from the glare, and relentless gaze, faith is built in the dark, in the valleys, and when life tends to break backs in never-ending battles. Dominating domestic cricket, steady in international cricket, Mayank Agarwal was never bereft of faith, it was there, clinging at the bare minimum, at what life in whites had to offer. Mayank had built his faith hitting back at back-breaking battles of life and in international cricket, he was willing to encounter a few more.
So, before he walked out to take guard against South Africa as an opener, there were no apprehensions, there were no doubters, there was absolutely no talk. It was all in place for Rohit Sharma, his new opening partner, nothing new for Mayank, he has always thrived away from the cameras, away from the gaze. Before he took guard, he trudged away just a touch, looked around, his first Test in home conditions - the conditions he had aced in domestic set-up, all so same, all so different.
🙌🙌💯#INDvSAhttps://t.co/R5QyyblOwZpic.twitter.com/utqFMShNj0— BCCI (@BCCI) October 3, 2019
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He was beaten by Kagiso Rabada, he walked away with head arched back and eyes closed. He was prepared to wait, to leave those sucker balls outside off stump, he was prepared to dig it out, to endure another back-breaking battle. He was prepared to allow his faith to prosper, he was prepared to play a Test knock. In the first half-hour, Rohit’s control percentage was 72.73, and Agarwal’s 73.08 - one of the many intricacies of Test cricket. Mayank has learnt it the hard way, do not look the bowlers in the eye, do not puff your chests and mouth words, do not look up in the first half an hour of the day. Grind, be submissive, be defiant and own the rest of the day. Life, in the very same way, teaches few of these lessons, be prepared to concede few minor battles to bag the eventual prize.
India vs South Africa, Test 1, Day 2: Live score and updates
After around 40 minutes, South Africa fell flat, the laid-back Vizag seemed to suck them in. This small battle was won by the Indian team, and now, Mayank, prepared to take the small step back, was slowly taking over. And yet, he was prepared to tick over the strike and hand it back to Rohit - he was prepared to keep the good balls away, but now, his chest was more puffed, he was willing to stare back and send those loose deliveries away.
A 50 came, the bat was lofted, few words were exchanged with Rohit and he took guard again. 2016 and 2017 were Mayank’s years - he confessed that he understood that he needed to score double hundreds to remind the selectors that he existed. He did get them, the selectors were forced to stand up and take note, this 50 here in Vizag was just another milestone.
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“We have played so much cricket in India, we know personally, I know what happens after seven or eight overs. The shine of the ball is gone. It’s so humid out there. The ball doesn’t swing much thereafter. After that, it’s about playing your game and taking the game forward,” Rohit said after the match.
On many days Mayank is an aggressor, he does not want to lie low and allow the opposition to dictate terms and slowly, after that initial burst, he was surfacing - expressive, disciplined, opening batsman. At one point, he shaped to cut Dane Piedt in his first over, and then, had to adjust to keep the ball away as it kept away. So, he kept this stroke away and instead, stepped out to attack him. Against, Keshav Maharaj, he was far more restrained going down low to the pitch of the ball and then rocking back deep when the ball was shorter - all those years in the dirt of first-class cricket helping him to play this.
“That’s (shot selection) definitely something I focus on slow and low wickets. Just try and look to play straight, present the full face of the bat. The key to batting on such wickets is to try and bat as long as possible,” he said at the end of the day.
He trudged off on 89 and when the day started on Day 2, he was unruffled, exchanging winks and words with Rohit. This time, the first half an hour belonged to him, it belonged to all those years of slogging in the dust, it belonged to all those years of building faith, it belonged to all those years of persistence. Helmet aloft, hands raised, looking towards the heaven - faith, often fickle, often personal, often the driving force - a maiden Test century on home soil.
“We’ll try and finish our batting quota in the first innings so that it gives our bowlers more chance to get a win,” Mayank added after the day’s play. He was joking, he will grab that bat and march on to bat, with as much hunger is he is asked to bat again. It is this thing with faith - it is built when you encounter back-breaking battles and all that.