When you see his name in the team sheet, you tend to ignore him as just another cricketer. Naturally, Mayank Agarwal did not raise eyebrows when he took guard in domestic cricket. Even his IPL ventures didn’t announce an arrival of any kind. But of late, he has been showing signs of being possessed.
The 26-year-old right-handed batsman from Karnataka is obsessed with the word ‘process’. Why not if that’s fetching him runs? Ducks are common in a batsman’s career; but it is rare to spot a batter going berserk following a pair. After recording the ducks against Hyderabad, Mayank’s batting turned interstellar; the numbers read 304*, 176, 23, 90, 133*, 173, 134. The demon mode is on and there is no cheat code for prevention.
Mayank is one of those grammatically-correct cricketers. He would often bend on his right knee to place the ball and drive through covers like those pictures of legends in old post cards. He amassed 1,064 runs in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season and is 351 runs short of equaling V.V.S. Laxman’s record. The former India batsman had scored 1,415 runs in the 1999/2000 season.
As the tournament moves to the quarterfinal phase, we caught up with the man in form.
What’s the secret behind the paradigm shift in your game? What exactly happened?
Nothing significant (laughs). But after the two ducks, I knew nothing could be worse for a batsman. The game had to go only upward from there. I was fortunate to have Vinay (Kumar) by my side. He told me, “Mayank, you are not going to get runs in every game. There will be bad days, but whenever you sense you are having a good day, you should make it big.” By God’s grace, I got a 300 in the next game. I also had K.L. Rahul and Ronit (More), my close buddies in the team, as support. They told me that it was alright and it happens to every player. But their words pepped me up.
But it is rare to find a batsman retaliate to zeroes the way you have…
Well, that happened because I let go the fear of failure. I thought if I get a start, I am going to make it big. The triple ton gave me confidence and I stuck to that mindset. The fear of failure never came back. I was in a process and I kept doing the same thing in every game.
Did you set any targets for the season?
None. I was never a stats man or a numbers guy. Even before, I never had big numbers to flaunt. The goal was to follow a process. I believe hard work doesn’t go as waste. It is going to come handy in some way or the other. My theory is to be the most hard working cricketer in the change room. It hasn’t been easy. I travel from Electronic City to the stadium every day for training, which is one end of the city to the other amid heavy traffic. But my determination shortened the distance. I am always willing to hit that many balls at nets.
There was a time when you had got into a debate with your coach, RX Murali, over your technique. Where do the two of you stand now?
I think every batsman goes through that phase. It is about correcting a few things, and not everything. This season, we worked on my awareness, game plan and understanding the batting better. There was not much about technique. It is a good feeling when your plans fall in place.
What was running through your mind whenever you took guard after every big knock? How hard was it to not feel complacent?
There have been times when I have got no runs. I keep telling myself that I have to stick to my process. I have a set game plan and I have to stick to that. I got a pair in this season and I know how it feels to have absolutely nothing behind you. After every 100, I reminded myself of the zeroes and that I have to respect the game and the process attached to it.
Even after the milestones, you sound calm. How much of an influence was M.S. Dhoni in your thought process. You shared the dressing room with him this year in the IPL (for Rising Pune Supergiant).
You can actually learn a lot from him. How he stays calm, the way he takes failure and how he deals with it. He also focuses on his process and says that you should do things that are in your control. If something is not in your hand, you should let that be. I picked that from him.
What are your thoughts on the Mumbai team and the quarterfinal at Nagpur?
Mumbai is one team where every player is a match winner. We are going to take a break and plan our game. They have all high quality players. It's going to be exciting.
The selectors recently picked the India ODI side for the series against Sri Lanka. Were you expecting a call-up?
To be honest, no. I never thought about it. I am really enjoying the moment in my zone. Karnataka is playing tremendous cricket and we reached the quarterfinals. This is where I am and I need to put all my energies here.