Mayank sears his face into Proteas’ memory
VISAKHAPATNAM : Mayank Agarwal is a methodical person. He didn’t arrive making headlines in IPL, but did it the old school way, scoring bucketfuls in domestic cricket season after season. He prefers long-distance running over the gym. When there’s time, he does Vipassana, which helps him cut out distractions and improve concentration.
Agarwal doesn’t make you stand up and look even though he has some jaw-dropping shots, like the inside-out six and a four he hit off Keshav Maharaj. What he does best, though, is make bowlers see his face all day, if need be. It hasn’t been easy. He has been dropped from the Karnataka side, prompting Rahul Dravid to suggest that he needed to improve his concentration.
His father asked him to try Vipassana, which worked. His mind became free, he stopped thinking about external factors, paid attention to things he could control. After a Test debut in Australia and returning from the Caribbean, he has undergone specialised training with coach ‘Rx’ Muralidhar, where his sessions are split in two halves — two and-a-half hours each in morning and evening.
It hasn’t been an easy entry into Tests. After being overlooked for West Indies at home last year, he flew to Melbourne midway through the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, took guard at the Boxing Day Test and scored 76. He followed it up with 77 in Sydney and another 55 in the Caribbean. In the five Tests he has opened so far, he has walked out with three different partners. Rohit Sharma was the latest. To keep getting used to new things isn’t easy, even for an experienced opener.
With KL Rahul out, Agarwal knew he had the time to cement his place at the top. But even though he had made important contributions, a century was still missing when he arrived in Visakhapatnam. In a country like India, the three-figure mark matters a lot. Maybe having Rohit at the other end helped a bit as South Africa went harder at him, even though Agarwal was the quicker of the two in getting off the blocks. As Rohit settled down and started to play shots, his partner dropped anchor and played sensible cricket: rotate the strike and put the bad balls away. He wasn’t shy of playing in the air, but did so only when he knew he was in absolute control of the shot.
A maiden ton was there for the taking. He got there with no fuss. “Crossing that milestone eased some nerves. Having played on this wicket for some time gave me confidence. We had good measure of their bowling. Once I got to a big score, we made sure that we put the pressure back on them.”
For the remainder of Day 2, till Agarwal was dismissed, he showed the world the traits that helped him get here. He didn’t lose focus; only applying his mind more. He didn’t let adrenaline take over. He didn’t play with overconfidence. He kept building. He ensured that the South Africans remembered his face, other than reminding everyone that he is here to stay.
India (1st innings): Agarwal c Piedt b Elgar 215, Rohit st De Kock b Maharaj 176, Pujara b Philander 6, Kohli c & b Muthusamy 20, Rahane c Bavuma b Maharaj 15, Jadeja (not out) 30, Vihari c Elgar b Maharaj 10, Saha c Muthusamy b Piedt 21, Ashwin (not out) 1. Extras (b 4, lb 1, nb 2, w 1) 8. Total (7 wkts decl, 136 ovs) 502. FoW: 1-317, 2-324, 3-377, 4-431, 5-436, 6-457, 7-494. Bowling: Philander 22-4-68-1, Rabada 24-7-66-0, Maharaj 55-6-189-3, Piedt 19-1-107-1, Muthusamy 15-1-63-1, Elgar 1-0-4-1.
South Africa (1st innings): Elgar (batting) 27, Markram b Ashwin 5, De Bruyn c Saha b Ashwin 4, Piedt b Jadeja 0, Bavuma (batting) 2. Extras (lb 1) 1. Total (3 wkts, 20 ovs) 39. FoW: 1-14, 2-31, 3-34. Bowling: Ishant 2-0-8-0, Shami 2-2-0-0, Ashwin 8-4-9-2, Jadeja 8-1-21-1.