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Interview: The Dravid-Sehwag blend in Mayank Agarwal's Team India tryst

Aadya Sharma
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Editor's Pick
866   //    01 Oct 2018, 16:04 IST

Mayank
Mayank Agarwal, recently part of the India A team, was the highest run-getter in the Ranji season last year

"I never discuss my goals".

Mayank Agarwal keeps his aspirations to himself, much like the passages of an introvert's pocket diary. He feels they are personal, and doesn't let them slip out into the open.

Over the last one year, Mayank's unspoken dream has been splashed around, from suit-clad pundits to the supremely-clamorous public, all goading the selectors to find him a spot in the Indian team.

The long wait ended with his inclusion in the squad to play the West Indies, and an 'excited' yet composed Mayank is ready to slowly relish the next step.

"International cricket is going to pose a different challenge altogether, but I am really looking forward to it".

"I know I have been batting well and I would like to take it day by day and continue doing so," Mayank said to Sportskeeda in an exclusive chat, soon after his selection.

The form that he mentions, and the one everyone's buzzing about, is the gargantuan numbers achieved over the last 12 months - endless graphs and pie charts have been created around his records over the past year.

The 27-year-old won the Domestic Player of the Year award for last season
The 27-year-old won the Domestic Player of the Year award for last season

Mind you, the real story isn't about the last 400 days.

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This is Mayank Agarwal after several iterations of upgrading. Through his trek to rediscovery, he has found a helping hand from two of India's greatest cricketers.

In 2014, Mayank was dropped from the Karnataka Ranji team, a 'wake-up call', as India A coach Rahul Dravid had declared it then. Enthused with the hunger to get runs, but still raw and unfurnished, he had to claw his way back, scoring a century against South Africa the next year. Little by little, he built himself up, taking bits from Dravid's quaint advice on the way.

"Rahul bhai is like an elder brother who guides us. There were times when we spoke and he asked me to keep doing things that are in my control, and keep looking to improve".

Dravid, over the seasons, has seen Mayank transfigure from child to man, but even during the youngster's purple patch with the bat, ensured that he sailed close to the land.

"Whatever has to come will surely come," Mayank was told, even when the hubbub around his non-selection reached fever pitch. Simple words, but they inspired him to stay content.

"I was happy because of the way I was batting, and I hope to keep improving and keep getting better and it was not something that was bothering me".

While Dravid kept him grounded, another Team India great lent his spark to Mayank's batting.

Virender Sehwag, as different from Dravid as chalk is from cheese, became a template for Mayank's flowy batting style.

While at the Kings XI Punjab camp, Mayank received invaluable guidance from mentor Sehwag, who he has idolised for years, perhaps since the days he was growing up amassing runs for Bishop Cotton in Bangalore.

"I really admired the way Viru pa played the game. We've spoken a lot of times, mostly during the IPL, about how he went about his game, and his mindset while playing".

His first meeting with Sehwag was back in 2013, crisscrossing at a time when Mayank was finding his feet and the veteran was drifting away from playing the game. He got a peek into Sehwag's school of 'middling the ball', and he still seems to borrow some of the flair from the legend's strokes.

Two years post the meeting, right after a near-hundred-run partnership at Sehwag's home-ground in Kotla, Yuvraj Singh, Mayank's batting partner at the Delhi Daredevils that day, had remarked at how the Karnataka batsman had matured, wishing him to play for India soon.

Over the next few years, Mayank has steered things in the right direction for himself.

"It's not just one thing, it has been a collection of things - fitness being one, working on my batting being another and temperament and understanding my game one more," he said.

He worked on situational-based training, bringing more understanding to his game and getting the mental patterns right.

Yuvraj Singh's wish might not transpire immediately - it might take time for him to get a spot in the playing XI, but Mayank is 'extremely happy' to reunite with Virat Kohli, whom he played alongside during his time at the Bangalore IPL franchise.

"Very excited and looking forward to it." You can sense the anticipation in his tone.

One year ago, he had confessed that he wants to don the India blue and win the World Cup. It was a rare divulgence of a simple dream, but he's cut out the din and stayed in his own bubble ever since.

'Positive vibes only', reads his Instagram bio. He's filtering out the commotion and sticking to his personal goals - no flashy statements, no exaggerated enthusiasm for show.

Maybe there's a pocket diary in his room somewhere, his secret confidante, taking note.

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Aadya Sharma
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