Circumstances conspired to facilitate Mayank Agarwal’s test debut in Australia and the 28-year-old has now embarked on establishing himself as India’s preferred opener across formats.
Agarwal’s red-hot streak in the 2017-18 season had meant chief selector MSK Prasad was often at pains explaining his exclusion from the national team and assuring that the Karnataka player was very much in India’s scheme of things.
Agarwal was too busy to brood though, being preoccupied with the task of hectoring bowlers in domestic cricket.
He was not even part of India’s original squad for the tour of Australia but a series of coincidences led to his test debut and he instantly impressed. The next logical step is to try and break into India’s one-day and Twenty20 squads, says the right-hander.
“Obviously the goal is to play for the country in all three formats,” Agarwal told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“I’m looking forward to playing limited overs cricket for the country whenever the opportunity presents itself. I think I have the game (to succeed across formats). “The basic remains the same, whether you’re playing test cricket, one-day cricket or Twenty20 cricket. You only have to change your game and plan according to the format you are playing and the situation you are put in.”
Agarwal adapted quickly in Australia after being flown in midway through the series in which his participation was made possible by a series of events involving other Indian openers.
First Prithvi Shaw rolled his ankle in a practice match even before the series started and then form deserted Murali Vijay and Lokesh Rahul with the series tied at 1-1.
Shoehorned into the side, Agarwal made an impressive debut in the Boxing Day test with scores of 76 and 42, batting in front of 70,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground egging on Australia’s formidable pace attack.
Agarwal said as soon as he landed in Melbourne, batting coach Sanjay Bangar and head coach Ravi Shastri fed him inputs about conditions and the modus operandi of Australia’s attack.
He accordingly finetuned his game over four practice sessions and went on to forge an effective makeshift opening partnership with Hanuma Vihari as India raced 2-1 ahead.
RUSH OF BLOOD
He struck 77 in the drawn final test in Sydney before gifting his wicket to Nathan Lyon, a rush of blood that cost him his maiden test century.
“I’m still disappointed about that. I could have had a century there. I was looking to attack him. I have learnt from that mistake,” he said.
“Playing test cricket was a great experience. Facing bowlers like Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood and (spinner) Nathan Lyon gave me a lot of insight as to what I need to do about a few aspects of my game.
“It also gave me a lot of confidence having scored against Australia in Australia.”
Agarwal also cherishes the experience of batting with man-of-the-series Cheteshwar Pujara, who blunted Australia’s pace sting, amassing 521 runs in seven innings, including three hundreds.
“It was a terrific experience. He’s very, very calm and composed when he’s batting,” he said of India’s top order bulwark.
“It was absolute pleasure to watch him from the non-striker’s end grinding the bowlers and defending and playing to his strength. There’s a lot to learn from him.”
The Australia tour was also rewarding from the point that it earned Agarwal a bat sponsorship deal with Indian tyre manufacturer CEAT earlier this month.
Apart from making him richer, the deal may also prevent a repeat of the “friendly banter” he was subjected to Down Under.
Agarwal said his bat without sticker amused Australia captain Tim Paine who asked his team mates to hazard a guess about the Indian’s worth.
“It was a friendly banter. I’d like to leave it at that,” said Agarwal.