Mayank is fearless in the nineties, says Pujara

Team-mate Cheteshwar Pujara, admitted that Mayank's fearless approach guided him to score 108, his second hundred in Test cricket.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Mayank Agarwal put up a 138-run stand for the second wicket.   -  Vivek Bendre

As Mayank Agarwal hammered Keshav Maharaj for two consecutive sixes, there was pin drop silence at the Maharashtra Cricket Association International Stadium on Thursday afternoon. The fans could not believe that the batsman, who was then batting on 87, could take such risks, especially when he was just 13 runs away from his second Test century.

But the 28-year-old batsman did not care. He relied on his natural game to hit the two sixes and closed in on to the three-figure score.

Read: India takes early control on day one

And after the day’s play, his team-mate, Cheteshwar Pujara, admitted that his fearless approach guided Mayank to score 108, his second hundred in Test cricket.

“He is an experienced player who has scored so many first-class runs, which has helped him a lot and when it comes to being nervous in his 90s, he is someone who is fearless, he knows how to convert 50s into big scores and at the same time, once he goes past 100, he can score heavily as we saw in the last game,” Pujara said.

Domestic grind

That habit, Pujara feels, has come from his domestic exposure. “I didn’t have to tell him much. To be honest, we were just communicating what their game plan was. If there was an error in his batting, I would just tell him to play close to his body when his bat was going away. Apart from that, he is batting really well and you don’t have to guide him much,” Pujara, who played a knock of 58 and forged a 138-run stand for the second wicket, said.

With suspense prevailing over the track, there were apprehensions on whether India would opt to bat, if it won the toss. Pujara admits that the plan was to bat first as ‘in India batting in fourth innings is never easy’.

Also read: It’s all sunny in Mayank’s la-la land!

“We saw in second session that there was enough turn for the spinners. It’s a true pitch, where if a fast bowler is bowling well, he can get a batsman out and if you are a batsman, there is value for your shots. There was little bit of spin later on,” Pujara said, before putting in a caution for the Proteas batsmen: “If we have runs on the board, it won’t be easy to bat on.”

Pitch and combination

Even though India is in the driver’s seat after the day’s play, Pujara admits that it is always a challenge picking the right combination when there are uncertainties about the nature of the pitch.

Key highlights: 2nd Test, day 1

“It is never easy especially on such pitches where before playing you don’t know how the pitch will behave,” he said. However, he admits that for the team, the idea was to go for an extra seamer. “We always thought there will be some assistance for fast bowlers, that’s why Umesh (Yadav) is playing, so you have to just back your instincts.”

“If we have five bowlers on a flat pitch, you can pick 20 wickets but if you go with four bowlers, it becomes difficult if there is not much assistance. Luckily there is assistance for fast bowlers and Umesh playing this game will help us in first and even in the second innings,” Pujara said.