Mayank Agarwal: I believe in scoring runs, and keep scoring runs

Sportstar caught up with the new star of Indian cricket, Mayank Agarwal, who is back to the domestic grind after an impressive debut in Australia as an opener.

Mayank Agarwal came up with two half-centuries in three innings after he was included in the Indian side for the last two Tests against Australia.   -  Vivek Bendre

Main gaadi doosre side mein laga doon (can I park my car on the other side)?” Mayank Agarwal asks a security guard on the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium premises in Bengaluru. The gentleman nods in surprise. Local boy Mayank is now an international cricketer, and the man in uniform didn’t see the humility coming.

He is back in the city to play the Ranji Trophy semifinal match for Karnataka.

At the KSCA canteen by the pitch, we greeted Mayank with the latest issue of Sportstar.

Looking at Prithvi Shaw on cover, he says, “Aah! Prithvi. Well done, brother.” Soon, the photoline page — comprising snaps from India’s historic series win in Australia — catches his eye. The right-hander made his Test debut Down Under in December last and left a mark as an opener.

Pointing to the snap that had Team India on the podium with the trophy, he says, “This is the moment that will be forever etched in my head.”

Flipping through the pages of Sportstar magazine and pointing to the snap that had Team India on the podium with the trophy, he says, “This is the moment that will be forever etched in my head.”   -  Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya

 

How much has life changed after the international debut and the series win in Australia?

Honestly, nothing much has changed. It’s just that I have got the experience and confidence of playing at the international level.

You used to travel a lot within Bengaluru for cricket training. How do you look back on that period now that you have played for India?

I still do. I would leave home at around 5.30 in the morning. I like to get up early and train. I would start my training by 6 a.m. From Electronic City, I would go to my training place and then come to KSCA to train with the Ranji side. After finishing these, I would go to RX Murali’s Academy in Marathahalli [around 15km away] and then take the Outer Ring road to return by 6 p.m.

That’s 12 hours of work…

Yes, proper 12 hours. To be honest, I have been lucky in a way that I was brought up with that mindset. The focus has always been to improve every single day. I never thought of it as a daily grind. It was more about where I could improve. Every day is a new day and I would think which part of my batting and training I could improve. If you look to get better at your game, the results will come. It’s a by-product of you getting better as a player.

I believe you have been into meditation as well...

I was introduced to Vipassana [a traditional Buddhist study] by my father at the age of 19. I was not very keen back then to do it but he forced me. He said it had helped him. I didn’t enjoy it at that moment but I am thankful to him for having introduced me to it. After I practised Vipassana, the benefits I have reaped have been tremendous.

You played for Royal Challengers Bangalore when you were 19. We remember R. Ashwin bowling you out and you had that ‘how did this happen’ expression. How much of a boost was IPL back then?

(Laughs) Being 19 and getting to play the IPL was a big thing. I shared the dressing room with Chris [Gayle], Virat [Kohli] and A. B. de Villiers. It was a tremendous experience. When I played the IPL then and even now, it is a lot about exposure, learning and getting better.

At 19, I had a sense of where the international people are; where their game is and where my game is. I could judge. It gave me a check whether I was at that level or not. If you can perform, it is a great platform for a young Indian player.

“Every day is a new day and I would think which part of my batting and training I could improve. If you look to get better at your game, the results will come. It’s a by-product of you getting better as a player,” says the opening batsman.   -  AP

 

But yours was a classic case of getting noticed through Ranji Trophy, and then earning an India A entry followed by the India call-up. What were the lessons you learnt from a tournament such as Ranji Trophy?

Ranji is a tough competition. By no means is it easy. It is a good, hard-fought season and you are competing against so many players. When you play Ranji Trophy, you are put in so many different situations because you play eight four-day games. If you play the knockouts, that makes it 11 games. You are not playing in one part of the country. You are touring. The kind of exposure, the different wickets in different parts of India is fantastic. It teaches you a lot about yourself and it is not a small tournament where you come, get one or two big scores and get noticed. You have to be consistent over a period of two-and-a-half months. If you have to play a long Test series, in India or abroad, and if you keep playing Ranji Trophy, you will understand where you are in different stages of the tournament. Is your fitness up to the mark? Are you mentally present in the eighth game as you were in the first game? All these things help.

There is no Test cricket happening till the World Cup? How do you plan to maintain the zone that you have created for yourself?

It is not only about playing Tests. It is wherever you go and whichever format you play. It is about performing and pushing yourself to be the best you can. There are a few learning experiences. I have learnt a few things while playing international cricket, and I want to come back and put that to use in Ranji Trophy. You need to do your best, play more number of matches and make your team win.

How do you feel about your chances in ODI cricket?

My thought process, for the past two years or so, is about going out there and performing. I believe in scoring runs. There are a few things that are not in your control. You should keep doing things that are in your control.

Karnataka’s Mayank Agarwal greets Cheteshwar Pujara of Saurashtra ahead of their Ranji Trophy semifinal encounter at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.   -  Sudhakara Jain

 

How difficult is it to maintain the hunger for runs in domestic cricket once you know that you have made it to the Indian team?

I wouldn’t say the hunger dies down. I would never look at it that way. You have another opportunity to go out there to make your team win. You have another chance to win a trophy for your team. By no means, wherever you have played or whatever you have achieved, when the game comes, everyone is equal out there. Whoever goes out there to play with the same intensity has a better chance to be on the winning side.

What you have achieved is a thing of the past, you need to keep doing that in the present; winning games and tournaments for your side as it is a team sport. That is the sole motivation.

How do you switch on and off between tournaments?

After the games are over, you sit and look back at your performance to think where you can improve. Then, move to the next tournament you play, it could be anything [IPL, India or Ranji].