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Having tasted failure, Mayank Agarwal’s real Test begins now

Mayank Agarwal is under pressure for the first time in his Test career
Mayank Agarwal is under pressure for the first time in his Test career
ANALYST
Modified 17 Feb 2020, 16:30 IST
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At a time when Indian opener Mayank Agarwal was in fantastic form last year, the legendary Sunil Gavaskar had stated that Agarwal could face a tougher time in his second season.

"He is enjoying Test cricket, this is his first year and hopefully he keeps scoring on the second year also because in the second season there is a lot more data available of you to the opposition but he has been batting beautifully," Gavaskar had said during a chat show on Star Sports.

The time the cricketer-turned-commentator was referring to has possibly arrived.

After a fantastic start to his Test career, Agarwal has struggled in New Zealand. He was sent to the country with the India A team so that he could get accustomed to the conditions. However, Agarwal has failed to score even a half-century since arriving in New Zealand.

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His scores while turning out for India A and New Zealand XI and New Zealand A read 8, 32, 29, 37, 24, 0 and 0. The technique and temperament which made Agarwal such a big hit in his first year in international cricket have been found wanting.

In a lucky break of sorts, Agarwal got to make his ODI debut in the recently-concluded three-match series, with both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan out with injury. However, the opener failed to make an impression in any of the three games, managing only 32, 3 and 1 as India were whitewashed 3-0.

Agarwal had a forgettable ODI series against New Zealand
Agarwal had a forgettable ODI series against New Zealand

Considering his extended lean run in New Zealand, and the fact that he will be the senior partner in Tests in the absence of Rohit, there will be additional pressure on Agarwal as he steps out to bat against a confident Kiwis. The fact that the series will only feature two Tests means the 29-year-old won't have much room for failure.

As rightly pointed out by Gavaskar, there is a lot more data available about Agarwal now, and hence the challenge to succeed will be greater for the Karnataka lad. His defence has been targeted very well by the opponents so far, and Agarwal hasn’t found the answers to counter that.

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Opening the batting in New Zealand is one of the greatest challenges for batsmen in world cricket, and many of the best have found the conditions difficult to counter. Apart from having a compact technique, Agarwal will also have to be mentally strong to get back among the runs.

While Agarwal’s lean run would worry the team management a little, particularly in the absence of Rohit, there is no reason why Agarwal cannot succeed. As former Australian captain Ian Chappell has often said, there is no standard formula of a good technique -- it is all about keeping the good balls out, and scoring off the bad ones.

Agarwal’s technique has definitely come under the scanner over the past few weeks, so it would be interesting to see if he can find a way out of the rut and, if yes, how.

Agarwal will be keen to deliver in the Tests
Agarwal will be keen to deliver in the Tests
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There are no two ways about the fact that Agarwal has the talent and technique to succeed on the big stage. Scoring half-centuries in his first two Tests, and that too in Australia, cannot be a fluke. Neither can his stupendous performance at home be ignored -- a golden run which included two double centuries.

At the same time, it cannot be denied that Agarwal has looked short on confidence in New Zealand.

After a stupendous start, Agarwal was bound to have a lean run sooner or later. And so, despite 872 runs in nine Tests at an average of 67.07, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that a sterner ‘Test’ is in store for Agarwal.

How he comes out of it can have a lasting impact on his career.

Published 16 Feb 2020, 00:40 IST
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