BY QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI
New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANS) At 27 years and 313 days, Mayank Agarwal made his Test debut – when the selectors perhaps had no option but to pick him following a prolific domestic season — and proved everyone wrong with mature innings of 76 and 42 against Australia in Melbourne in December 2018. And at 29 years and 217 days, he scored his highest IPL score, a fabulous 60-ball 89, and almost single-handedly took Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) to victory.
With this IPL knock against Delhi Capitals (DC), Agarwal has proved that there is place for sensible and calculated cricket even the bang-bang shortest format of the game. The 29-year-old’s knock – his highest IPL score in 78 matches — also proves that age is no bar in T20 cricket.
Agarwal was once tagged to be fit only for the longer version of cricket – he scored a triple century in Ranji Trophy in 2017 while batting for over 12 hours – but with his latest 89, he has proved his critics wrong. And he knows how to rise like a phoenix from the ashes: he had scored that Ranji triple in 2017 after bagging a ‘pair’ in just the previous match, and on Sunday he overcame a seven-innings half-century drought in grand style.
J. Arun Kumar, now coach of the US national team, has seen Agarwal grow and blossom as a batsman for Karnataka when he was the state coach. “It was very sensible knock. Had he finished the match off it would have been great because glory comes with victories. It was unfortunate (that he got out without ensuring a win), but hats off to him. I hope he finishes games like he has done earlier,” Kumar told IANS on Monday.
Kumar was referring to Agarwal’s dismissal when the KXIP required a solitary run to win the game. The match went into the Super Over, where Delhi Capitals held their nerve better and emerged victorious.
“He was unbelievable and to get a game that close was magical. He’s been doing well in Tests [as well], and to get the game that close again brings a lot of confidence in the group,” said KXIP captain KL Rahul of his Bengaluru city-mate after his team lost to the Delhi Capitals by the skin of their teeth on Sunday night.
Agarwal’s 89 erased his previous high of 68 off 48 balls, scored for the KXIP against the Delhi Daredevils in 2015 in Gahunje, Pune. Incidentally, it was the same venue where he had scored his Ranji triple century against Maharashtra in November 2017.
Having represented Delhi Daredevils, Rising Pune Supergiant, and Royal Challengers Bangalore previously in the IPL, Agarwal knows two things extremely well: how to come out of a rut dramatically, and rescue his team when in trouble. On Sunday, when KXIP were reeling at 55 for five while chasing Delhi Capitals’ 157, he saved his team the blushes. That he ended on the losing side doesn’t take away anything from his valiant effort – barring that disappointment of not scoring the winning run.
Agarwal must be mentally strong person to overcome disappointments quickly. In 2017, he failed to score a single run in a Ranji Trophy match against Hyderabad. He was shattered beyond words. But, lo and behold, he turned disappointment into glory in the very next match against Maharashtra as he hammered an unbeaten triple century while occupying the crease for more than 12 hours (304 not out, 28x4s, 4x6s).
“It was one of the lowest points in my life, in terms of cricket; I had never got a pair before. And I had never got a 300 before either. The triple century was a contrast in just one week; everything changed,” Agarwal had said at the time.
Agarwal is used to rollercoaster rides. At the moment, though, he is enjoying his time under the sun, playing under his friend and fellow Bangalorean KL Rahul for KXIP.
BY QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI