IPL 2020: Mayank Agarwal targets elusive Indian Premier League high
IPL 2020: With two half-centuries, Agarwal scored 332 runs in 13 matches at No. 3 last year for Kings XI Punjab. He was overshadowed by star openers KL Rahul (593) and Chris Gayle (490) and knows he needs to go some distance.Updated: Sep 08, 2020, 07:33 IST
As a youngster, Mayank Agarwal’s role model was Virender Sehwag. While retaining his aggression, the Karnataka batsman held firm through a rollercoaster early phase and started his Test career with a bang.
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Agarwal has gone from strength to strength since his India debut on the 2018 Australia Test series. Starting with the highest score (76) by an Indian on Test debut in Australia, he became the second fastest to two double hundreds last year. The opening batsman underlined his class straightaway.
The red-ball form though has not been translated into limited-over success, which many felt was a given even during his impressive showing in age-group cricket. He has had few chances so far though.
Last year, he was a late replacement at the World Cup after Vijay Shankar was injured, but didn’t get to play. He has since played three ODIs, all in New Zealand this year, and is yet to feature in T20 internationals.
A modest IPL run could be one reason - in nine editions starting 2011, he has scored 1,277 runs in 77 games, averaging just 18.34 with a middling strike rate of 128.13.
His best was last year, for Kings XI Punjab. With two half-centuries, he scored 332 runs in 13 matches at No.3. He was overshadowed by star openers KL Rahul (593) and Chris Gayle (490). Agarwal knows he needs to go some distance, and this edition starting on September 19 provides the chance.
Coming into IPL, Agarwal discussed his game with KXIP coach Anil Kumble. “We’ve been speaking about that (IPL form) even during the lockdown. Anil bhai told me the areas I can improve. We got down to watching lot of videos and (he) opened up different perspectives in my game on the field - figuring out how to turn those 40s, 50s into bigger scores and some other starts into match winning knocks,” Agarwal, 29, said in an interview from Dubai.
He knows how to convert starts into big knocks as his record in 11 Tests show. He also shone for Karnataka in last year’s Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 victory, but big IPL success is yet to come.
“Test cricket is an altogether different format; the focus is on batting for longer periods. In T20s you need explosive power, but it’s not just a power game. In competitive cricket margin of error is anyway less. If you make a mistake the other teams are ready to pounce on that. There is always risk involved, just that in T20s you have to take those risks a little more often.”
Agarwal has opened in Tests and List A matches, but batted mostly at No.3 in IPL 2019. He hinted that could change this time but it depends on the next two weeks as the KXIP management decides team strategy.
“Till the game starts, it’s not decided where I will be batting. I am really looking forward to this tournament. We have had some time to prepare in Bangalore as well as here. We still need to sit and talk; we need to go through each role and the position I’m going to bat.”
Agarwal and fellow Karnataka players in KXIP, Rahul and Karun Nair, had a couple of sessions with Kumble at home before flying out to the UAE. This is his third straight season with the franchise. His focus is to adapt to conditions in the UAE.
“I am extremely happy to be back and play. Merely the chance to play during this time after a long break is very refreshing. I didn’t keep expectations high in the initial net sessions because I did not want to burden myself. It’s quite hot here. But yeah, you can say a little similar to Indian conditions. Just creating a batting rhythm and flow is my sole focus now,” he said.
“Nobody has played that much cricket this season. Some had a bit of cricket, some absolutely nothing. It’s going to be a fresh start for everybody. It’s a kind of level-playing field. We are training hard but are spacing the sessions and resting in between. We are gradually picking up intensity. We don’t want to push too hard, too early.”
The Karnataka flavour in KXIP lends familiarity. “It’s exciting for all of us he (Rahul) is going to lead. I’m looking forward to playing under him, it’s fantastic,” said Agarwal, who grew up playing age-group cricket with Rahul. “Since Rahul is leading for the first time, he will get a lot of help, be it Kumble, Chris. He has a big support system. We are really looking forward to it.”
KXIP, like Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals, is yet to win IPL. “We have a group which is really happy that we are able to come together. There is no such thing as senior-junior. We will try and win as many games together,” he said.