Regret missing out on big score in Sydney: Mayank Agarwal
Mayank Agarwal missed out on a century by 24 and 23 runs in both Tests. (AFP Image)

Mayank Agarwal is high on confidence following his unforgettable Test debut in Australia. The 27-year-old opener not only got to feature in India’s historic maiden series win in Australia but scored two half-centuries in the third and fourth Tests in Melbourne and Sydney. Agarwal came close to scoring a century in his maiden Test series with scores of 76 and 42 at the MCG, and another 77 in Sydney. While the hundred was there for the taking in both Tests, Agarwal feels it was his knock during the final Test at the SGC which he could have converted into a big innings. (READ: Mayank Agarwal stars on Test debut)

“I wasn’t very disappointed when I got out in the first match (at 76) because I thought that Pat Cummins delivery kicked more than I expected. But in Sydney, I was upset with myself. It wasn’t about a hundred, but I could have got a bigger score,” Agarwal told Times of India.

“I was disappointed at the way I threw my wicket away. That said, I also had a plan on how I was going to play and pace my innings. The plan was to attack Nathan Lyon and that did not work out. If there is a lesson from it and I can improve myself as a player, then it is a lesson well learnt.”

India’s openers had struggled to get going in the Test series, barring the second innings of the first Test in Adelaide. But once Agarwal came into the fold, the complexion changed in the final two matches. In Melbourne, Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari added 40 runs but more importantly lasted 18.2 overs, the most number of deliveries an Indian opening pair has lasted in SENA countries since England 2011. In the fourth Test at the SCG, KL Rahul was dismissed cheaply, but Agarwal continued his fine form with another solid knock at the top.

“Honestly, I don’t like to compare. I wouldn’t say this was better or that was good. I thought each innings had a different importance to it,” Agarwal said.

Agarwal was first drafted into India’s Test side during the series against West Indies but did not get a chance in either game. With Prithvi Shaw injuring himself, the opportunity was ideal for Agarwal to capitalise. Upon his arrival in Australia, Agarwal explained how coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli’s inspirational words were key to his confidence.

“I was just excited to be a part of the Indian team. I was going to be part of a series which was being intensely fought and was interestingly poised at one-all, and I was looking forward to being there,” Agarwal said.

“Getting the cap was nice but the thing that struck me the most at that moment was the encouraging words I received from Virat (Kohli) and everyone around. A couple of days before my debut, Ravi (Shastri) sir spoke to me and said: ‘Mayank, you will get your chance. We know you have come up the hard way; you’ve scored the runs and those things will really help you when you play’. Virat too was very encouraging and said: ‘It is a big place to make your Test debut. Bigger the place, bigger the opportunity and greater chance of an impact you can make’. It felt fantastic to be accepted and supported by everyone.”

Agarwal found a familiar face in Rahul in the dressing room. The two have played a lot of cricket together for Karnataka and Agarwal mentioned how he picked Rahul’s brains. Incidentally, Rahul too had made his Test debut in Australia during the tour of 2014-15.

“We’ve played a lot of cricket together. It was very comforting to have one of my best friends in the side. He made sure I was comfortable,” Agarwal added. “Obviously, having your best mate meant the vibes and energy levels were high. Once there, we both went out for coffee and he sat me down and spoke to me. I asked him about the Aussie bowlers. He told me about his experience and what he made of it. I was watching the matches, but getting first-hand information from my best mate, who was playing in the series, was also nice and that really helped.”

With the Test format ticked, Agarwal remains patient for the limited-overs format. With the World Cup taking starting in England in May, India’s 50-over format seems settled, something that captain Virat Kohli also touched upon during the ODIs against West Indies. It might take some time before we see Agarwal in India blues, but the 27-year-old is more than willing to wait for his turn to come.

“Like I have always said, every person’s journey is different. I’ve made it to the Test team and I’m grateful for that. What’s got me this far is sticking to the process, hard work and playing every game to the best of my ability. I will take whatever comes out of it. I’m not thinking too much ahead. I’m just going to take things as they come. When the time is right, that (limited-overs debut) too will happen,” Agarwal said.