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A season of liberation for me: Mayank Agarwal

By Unnikrishnan
Mayank Agarwal

Bengaluru, December 2: After scoring over 1000 runs from six games, including a 300, Mayank Agarwal is the hottest topic of discussion in the Indian domestic circuit.

Mykhel touched base with Mayank at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on a clement Saturday (December 2) for a chat about the dream run, process of overcoming the fear of failure and the upcoming quarterfinal match against Mumbai etc.

Over 1000 runs from six matches, a triple ton....has it sunk in yet?

No, to be honest. But inside me nothing has changed and my mindset is the same. Just that I am more confident than I was at the start of the season.

Was there any change to your routine or training during the season or during the pre-season time?

The preparation prior to a match has remained the same. But the pre-season training this year has been different. I have been working the RX (Murali) sir for the past 3-4 years. We initially worked on technique. This year we decided to do something called skill-based training. We decided to simulate situations and not to focus so much on technique.

We created damp conditions and situations that may arise out of a match - placement of fielders etc. For eg he would say: 'Mayank, the ball should not hit the net on the full. It has to bounce before it hit the nets around you.' Then I didn't realise it but now automatically my head comes on top of the ball, meet the ball closer to my body and meet the ball late than reaching out for it. It has been useful in understanding my mindset and my own game. It also helped me to react to a situation better. So, it gave me a good insight and the changes have been working well so far.

In fact, you'd a modest beginning to the season. Were you worried at that point?

I will be lying if I say I was not worried. I was worried and I don't know what was going to happen next. A lot of things - not all of them positive - were running through my mind. But at that crucial juncture, I was fortunate to have Vinay Kumar (Karnataka captain) around me.

He came up to me and said: 'It's ok. There are six games in the group stage and you cannot score runs in all of them. Yes, you didn't have the best of starts and you just need to ensure that make the innings big after getting set.' Fortunately, the very next game I was able to exploit a good start and convert it into a 300. Just before that game, GK (Anil Kumar) sir walked up to me and said: 'Don't worry. We are here to back you.' That assurance at a critical time did wonders for my self-belief.

Now, the fans and, perhaps, the team itself might be expecting big things from you. Feeling pressure to continue in the same vein....

Not really. Actually, I let go that fear of failure during that knock of 300. It was a make or break situation for me. So, playing with a mind having no baggage made a lot of difference. Now, I am in that mindset and the fear of failure no longer haunts me. I don't know what will happen in the next game but I am living in the present and working hard on my game and that leave me in a happy space.

So, a season of liberation for you?

Yes, absolutely - a season of liberation. And that's not just in terms of runs but mentally and from my game' perspective too.

You have always been viewed as a player suited for shorter formats, so have you discovered the long innings player in you this season?

I have seen players like Virender Sehwag, Matthew Hayden and David Warner play in all formats. What I have noticed that they don't really change their game - yes they do make adjustments to suit the longer format. But their basic game and plan remain the same. So, I believe the basics remain the same whichever format you play and it's all about how do you read the situation and how do you adapt your game plan. I am able to do that this season and I think that made the difference.

Heard that you are doing long distance running as part of your training schedule. A bit unusual preparation for a cricketer. Can you elaborate the benefits?

I needed to envisage a training programme that would help me play the four-day or five-day format and condition my body to its demands. So, I zeroed in on long distance running and it helps me physically and mentally. You need a lot of endurance to stay on the field for four or five days and long distance running helps you build it.

See, I run in the stadium in circles and I am not listening to music with an ear phone plugged into my ears to cast away the monotony. It's a solitary exercise - no partner, no music. You can bored very easily in such a situation. That's where I felt I have broken that barrier of boredom. I was thinking more about the next step and next round - you can say stay focused on the goal in front. For eg: 'I have to finish eight kms in this period of time.' I found it immensely self-challenging. It' working for me.

During the 2014-15 season, you were dropped from Ranji side and were you worried about your future in long format then?

Test cricket, all said and done, is the real form of cricket and everyone wants to play it. Yes, that was a worrying and uncertain phase for me. All I had to do was to score some runs and wait for my chance at the earliest.

How did you maintain your positivity?

I think, it's all about chasing the dream. It keeps you motivated. I wanted to make a comeback and that sustained my drive. Of course, I have a wonderfully supportive family and they were a huge source of strength during that not so pleasant time.

The role of RX Murali...

It has been a tremendous experience to work with him. He brought a positive change in my technique and more significantly, in my mindset. He made me aware of myself as a person and a player and made me respond to situations better.

There are a quite a few players who donned the India colours - KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Manish Pandey, A Mithun, Vinay, S Arvind and Stuart Binny - in the Karnataka dressing room.

A big support for you?

That way the Karnataka dressing room is quite helpful. You can walk up to any one and speak. You can share your thoughts and ask them about your own game. It helps a lot that many of us have played age group cricket together. So, we have a good rapport between us. Of course, having played at the highest level, their presence in the dressing room makes a lot of difference. It's nice of them to walk up and tell me their thoughts while I am batting at nets. It helps you get another perspective about your game.

A much-anticipated quarterfinal against Mumbai is coming your way and how's the team going to approach it?

Now on, you will get some really tough teams. In the immediate present, Mumbai - yes, looking at their history it's going to be tough against them. They are playing well as a unit at this moment. But we will be focusing on what we could do and play to our strength and be in our zone.

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    Story first published: Saturday, December 2, 2017, 19:06 [IST]
    Other articles published on Dec 2, 2017
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