Mayank Agarwal won't be denied, not in nets, not in Tests

Playing his first Test at home, opener Mayank Agarwal scored a superb double century against South Africa to put India in a commanding position.

Mayank Agarwal soaks in the applause after scoring his maiden double hundred.   -  GETTY IMAGES

It's a pleasant warm March morning in Cuttack. The outfield at the Barabati Stadium is battered after overnight rain, and though the weather has cleared in the morning, there are wet patches.

The hard grind over the last three days has allowed Karnataka to have optional nets on the eve of its contest with Arunachal Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the domestic T20 competition.

Three months after one of his most significant challenges as a batsman — a Test debut against Australia at the MCG, with 75,000 people looking on — Mayank is a relaxed man.

He is aware of the attention on him as he ambles to the ground with three members of the support staff. He is the only Karnataka player on the ground, though.

He spends time talking to the team's local manager before unpacking his kit. There's no spread laid out at the venue for breakfast.

"Yeh paise lijiye, chai aur bread omelette leke ayiyega. Apne liye bhi laana (Here, take the money and please get tea and bread omelette. Get some for yourself too)," he tells the manager.

Here is a bit of evidence that Mayank, at least on the outside, isn't ruthless and remorseless like Virat Kohli when it comes to food.

Here's a man who had to endure an arduous wait and put up a 2000-run domestic season before becoming India's 295th Test cricketer.

"The beauty of waiting so long for a debut is that Mayank had time to understand his game through the ups and downs and find a way to come out on the other side," says former New Zealand head coach Mike Hesson, who has worked closely with the batsman in IPL team Kings XI Punjab set-up.

THE HARD YARDS

The 76 runs Mayank made opening the innings on Test debut in Melbourne were worth their weight in gold. He blunted the fiery pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood and set up the stage for a Cheteshwar Pujara hundred and a comprehensive India win.

In Cuttack, in a domestic competition, where Karnataka has blazed past each of its opponents so far, Mayank ensures the stakes remain as high.

There is a lot of analysis of any batsman's technique following his success, or the lack of it, on the international scene. Mayank is unwilling to let his guard down.

Mayank Agarwal in action during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack.   -  BISWARANJAN ROUT

 

He is aware of the elevated status that comes with stardom. He constantly tells the net bowler to give him honest feedback.

Mayank has failed to convert starts in the first three matches of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. As he puts on the pads, it is evident this session is designed to address some specific issues. 

He takes throwdowns. Match situations are simulated. During one of these sessions, a Mayank scream echoes around an empty stadium.

"Four tha yaar, yeh (This was a boundary)," he cries out loud after the team's media manager, doubling up as a long-on fielder, sagely declares a crisply struck airborne shot as, "It's a catch."   

For the next 30 minutes, Mayank plays one glorious stroke after another, only for the manager to award him ones, twos and threes; everything but a boundary.

He gets a little impatient at one point but continues to middle the ball. After sweating it out for nearly an hour, Mayank drives one on the rise. "Shot," says the bowler. "And that's a four," the manager concedes. Mayank pumps his fist in the air.

The fist pump made an appearance again on Thursday in Visakhapatnam. The helmet came off as Mayank celebrated his maiden Test hundred and then converted it to a double against South Africa.

The strokeplay that a handful saw in the nets at Cuttack was in full bloom in the Test arena.