Mayank Agarwal stands up

After a 31 and a pair in the opening stages of the Ranji Trophy, Mayank Agarwal turned things around with the bat, for himself and for the team.

Mayank Agarwal has accumulated 2141 runs across three domestic tournaments.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Back in October, Mayank Agarwal recalls with some hurt, things were not going well.

His Ranji Trophy season had begun poorly. A 31 against Assam in the opening game of the campaign had been followed by a pair against Hyderabad.

As he walked back to the pavilion that afternoon in Shivamogga, dismissed for a 22-ball-duck in the second innings, it seemed the weight of the town was on his shoulders.

READ: Mayank Agarwal makes history

“It was a terrible feeling,” he says. “It just didn’t feel right. I felt scratchy. I didn’t know what was going to happen. K.L. (Rahul) told me, ‘It’s all right. This is the worst that could happen. Now look forward. Think positive even if it feels outrageous.’ Then Vinay (Kumar) spoke to me. It felt really nice.”

Karnataka’s next game was four days away, in Pune against Maharashtra. Agarwal went to his coach, ‘RX’ Muralidhar, for help. “More than skill, it was about making a mental shift,” he says. “We did work hard but we had long conversations. He was trying to remove those mental blocks.”

READ: Mayank: ‘Selection not in our control’

Those blocks, it would seem, were blown to smithereens. Agarwal smashed an unbeaten triple century in Pune and, five months on is basking in the glow of an extraordinary season, having accumulated 2141 runs across three domestic tournaments. In that time he has altered perceptions, broken records and simply taken his batting to another level.

“I definitely did not imagine the season would turn out this way,” he smiles. “Especially after the start. But I’m just grateful to God. The difference [from previous seasons] is that I know my game better and I know myself better. Having got those insights, I can deal with situations better.”

In the spotlight

Agarwal may have missed out on a spot in the Indian team for the triangular T20 series in Sri Lanka, but he clearly has the attention of the national selectors. At any rate, he is not worried.

“It’s all about what you have in your hand now. And in today’s scenario, we have a lot of games. So there’s always something to look forward to,” he says.

READ: Deodhar Trophy: Players upbeat with one eye on India cap

Many in Karnataka, though, had predicted a quicker rise to the top for Agarwal ever since he emerged from the ICC U-19 World Cup in 2010 as India’s top-scorer. It has taken him some time to string together a series of big scores in first-class cricket, but the 27-year-old has no regrets.

“People say, ‘Oh you were right on track, what happened?’ and this and that...But I think everyone walks a different path. Everyone makes their journey differently. There’s no point in comparing. To say, ‘Oh, how come he’s got there early?’ or ‘He’s not got there’...I don’t think we should do that. Your time will come when it has to.”

Karnataka’s campaign in the Deodhar Trophy begins on Monday and Agarwal knows he cannot rest. “Our dressing-room culture is such that no individual is bigger than the team or the game,” he says.

“Whether I’ve got runs previously or not, today I have to start from zero. I have to be aware of that and be very humble. I know this game is a great leveller.”

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