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The Mayank Agarwal journey – Has the right-hander cemented his spot as India’s Test opener?

The opportunity of donning the Test cap knocked at Agarwal's door in December 2018.

Mayank Agarwal
Mayank Agarwal. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Mayank Agarwal- a name which paved through the ranks to emerge as a reliable element in India’s top-order batting force. The ‘Monk’, as fondly called by his domestic teammates, looked up to the sky and raised his bat to acknowledge the applause from the dressing room after getting 150 against Bangladesh. But the saga didn’t end there for the right-hander. The 28-year-old, after being signalled by skipper Virat Kohli to carry on, smashed his maiden double ton to etch his name in the history books.

Not many people would argue that Agarwal has carved his name on India’s opening slot. It is certainly going to be an uphill task to topple Agarwal for compatriots KL Rahul and Prithvi Shaw, who are also eyeing to cement their spot in the Test side.

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With his second double ton in 12th innings, Agarwal surpassed the legendary Don Bradman (13 innings) in Test cricket to become the second-fastest batsman to take fewest innings to two double tons. His rise disagrees to halt in the red-ball format as the Karnataka batsman broke into the top-10 of ICC Test Batting Rankings issued on Tuesday. He joined the elite list along with Virat Kohli and Steve Smith.

But the journey hasn’t been an easy one for the Bengaluru-born batsman. From being plagued with fitness issues to sealing his berth as an Indian opener- Agarwal’s expedition in international cricket has flourished to a great extent in the past couple of years.

In 2014-15 season, when a 23-year-old was being declared unfit by the team management, no one in their wildest dreams would have imagined the career graph of Agarwal to take a steep upward curve in a couple of years down the line. After getting benched midway through the season, Agarwal knew that he had to tweak his fitness levels and his regime in order to reinvent himself.

Mayank Agarwal was compared with Virender Sehwag in the initial days of his career

It all started when a prolific youngster hogged the attention in the U-19 World Cup in 2010. A 19-year-old with a similar aggressive touch of Virender Sehwag – Agarwal didn’t miss a chance to steal the limelight in the marquee event. He emerged as the leading run-scorer for India in the tournament. However, his domestic career notched up when the right-hander smashed his maiden triple century in first-class cricket against Maharashtra in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy.

He set the league ablaze with his consistency and profuse run-scoring form. Agarwal the leading run-scorer in the 2017–18 Ranji Trophy, finishing the tournament with 1,160 runs. He also the leading run-scorer for Karnataka in the 2018–19 Vijay Hazare Trophy, with 251 runs in seven matches. Agarwal amassed an astounding 2141 across all formats, the highest total by any batsman in a domestic season. A Test call up was on the cards considering his beaming form.

Mayank Agarwal broke into the Test side after Prithvi Shaw got sidelined due to an injury

The opportunity of donning the Test cap knocked at Agarwal’s door in December 2018 after Prithvi Shaw’s exclusion from the squad due to injury. And it was no looking back for Agarwal from that golden chance. He seized the opportunity with both hands and scored a 76 run-knock against Australia at the MCC, which was the highest-ever score by an Indian on a Test debut on the Australian soil.

Agarwal might have been disappointed as he did not play a single game in the World Cup 2019, after being called to England for replacing an injured Vijay Shankar. However, the opener retaliated and proved his mettle against South Africa as he scored his maiden ton with the red ball. He also went on to hit his maiden double ton against the Proteas.

In his short Test career so far, the right-hander has amassed 872 runs in 9 Tests at an impressive average of 67.08 including three half-centuries, three tons and two double centuries.

The man with the red-hot form is expected to do wonders in the cash-rich IPL 2020 too. Despite having an unexceptional IPL 2019 campaign, Agarwal will be one of the most sought-after players of the league. The pursuit of a No.4 batsman may not have ended for India, but the nation has unarguably discovered a ‘Mr. Dependable’ for the opening slot in Tests.

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