Moments after Mayank Agarwal took guard at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday afternoon, he stretched around to examine the field set by Maharashtra. Seeing that the fine-leg fielder was stationed wider than usual, he got wind of the opposition’s plans – to bowl short to aim at his throat. There was nothing wrong with the idea though. Except, Maharashtra’s medium pacer Pradeep Dadhe did not have the pace, nor could he extract bounce from this docile Kotla track. All Mayank did was to sit back and pull it with utter disdain and deposit it over the square leg boundary for a six. That’s precisely how the Karnataka opener kick-started the below-par 161-run chase.
“I saw it coming. They had tried a similar ploy against me during the Ranji Trophy game as well,” he said. That shot typified Mayank’s confidence and also underlined his stupendous season. Once again, runs continued to flow unabated from Mayank’s blade. He scored a fluent 81, and along with captain Karun Nair’s unbeaten 70, took Karnataka home with more than 19 overs to spare.
After narrow misses in Ranji and the Syed Mushtaq Trophy, Karnataka romped into their first final of the season, thumping Maharashtra by nine wickets. Despite the exploits of the 155-run opening partnership between Mayank and Karun, the foundation on this emphatic win was laid down by the skill and discipline shown by their bowlers. Fast bowler Prasidh Krishna and off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham prised out five wickets between them, while some sensational fielding also fashioned two run-outs. In the process, Maharashtra was shot out for just 160 in under 45 overs.
After the win, Mayank tweeted a picture of him in the hotel pool with the caption: “That’s what you do after a good day’s work. Thank you for all the wishes.”
The 27-year-old has now scored 633 runs from seven matches in this Vijay Hazare Trophy, which made him the highest run-scorer in the history of this tournament. He overtook Dinesh Kartik’s tally of 607 runs, achieved last year. In fact, just two days ago in a quarter-final encounter against Hyderabad, he registered his highest score in List A cricket – a blistering 111-ball 140. He finished as the highest run-scorer in the Ranji season too, stacking up 1160 runs with five centuries. Overall, he now has a combined tally of 2,051 runs across formats this season.
Mayank, on his part, admitted that he had no clue about the plethora of records he had broken over the course of this season. He insisted that these individual records meant nothing if his team is not winning. “In the Karnataka dressing room, we don’t talk about individual records. We only look at the process. To be honest, individual records mean nothing if your team is not winning trophies,” he told The Indian Express.
For long, Mayank had been straight-jacketed as a limited overs player. Even though this opened the doors to IPL and several subsequent India A tours, he had to wait patiently to break into Karnataka’s heavy-duty Ranji team that consisted of Robin Uthappa, Ganesh Satish and Abhishek Reddy. It was only after Uthappa and Satish had moved to other states, he got a permanent spot in this team. He responded with a mountain of runs across formats. Mayank said he did not have a problem in shifting from one format to the other. “It’s all about knowing your role in your team as a player and playing every ball on its merit,” he explained.
This productivity puts him in a good position to earn a place in the team for the upcoming T20 tri-series in Sri Lanka. But Mayank reckoned he was not thinking about it. “These things are not under my control. What I can do is to score runs and help Karnataka win matches. I’m a very spiritual person. If it (India call) has to happen, it will happen…I leave that to the Almighty,” he added.
Brief scores: Karnataka 164/1 in 30.3 overs (M Agarwal 81, K Nair 70*) beat Maharashtra 160 in 44.3 overs (S Mundhe 50; K Gowtham 3/26) by nine wickets
Jadeja could play in semis
Saurashtra all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who sat out the last two games due to a side strain, stands a good chance of playing in the semi-final against Andhra on Sunday. “He is likely to play. It’s a crucial game and he is an important player for us. However, we will take a final call in the morning,” coach Sitanshu Kotak said.