Hard work is Mayank Agarwal’s foundation. The India Test opener returned to his recourse less than 24 hours after arriving in Bengaluru, following the tour of the West Indies. He managed a week-long break in between with wife Aashita in Paris. The 28-year-old was back to work on Friday, putting in the hours in the gym and at nets. Agarwal spoke to TOI on the challenges of international cricket and the value of the domestic calendar.
How would you describe your early steps in international cricket?
It has been an amazing journey. A lot of fun and different experiences. I’m getting a taste of what international cricket is all about. From having a good start to my international career in Australia to facing West Indies in their backyard, totally different from what I expected or thought. I have come to understand international cricket is baptism by fire. There are times when things go your way, then there are other times when the going gets tough. That’s international cricket and overcoming those obstacles and coming into your own I think is the challenge.
What was your biggest takeaway from the West Indies series?
It was a learning curve about personal expectations, different conditions and situations we came across. We played with the Dukes ball, the conditions were hot and it was a great experience to face Kemar Roach, who bowled really well in the series. After the series, they (West Indies players) were nice enough to invite us to their dressing room. We spoke to Roach, who gave us a lot of insight into cricket and his game.
As a newcomer, did you sense an edge, an intensity about the Indian team?
As a unit, the Indian team is playing at a very intense level. It is really amazing to see the intensity with which we play. We are going out there not only to win matches but win situations, win each session. We understand that individual performances can go through highs and lows, but it is important to keep up the intensity with which we are playing. Also, we are a very confident unit. We believe in ourselves and are backing ourselves to play the best cricket we can.
You were batting alongside Virat Kohli in the second Test in Kingston when the team was precariously placed at 46/2. How was that experience?
Virat came in to bat about half hour before lunch. The first thing we spoke about was getting a partnership going. We said, ‘Let’s not take any chance, let’s hold on to both ends till lunch and then come out.’ So we were tight and cautious. After lunch, Virat went bang, bang, bang and suddenly upped the ante.
What I took from Virat’s batting is intensity and mindset in terms of how he looks at and reads situations. He also brings in a lot of energy. He is the guy at the forefront, leading by example. There were so many guys doing the job well, Jinks (Ajinkya Rahane), (Hanuma) Vihari. It is great to be involved with a team like this.
You will soon make your debut on home soil…
Playing at home is always special and I’m really looking forward to the series. There was a lot I learnt in Australia, there was even more learning in the West Indies. I’m working on what I’ve learnt and I’m eager to go out and put those lessons to use against South Africa and have a good series at home.
With so many players pushing for the openers’ slot, do you feel the pressure when you step out to bat?
Not really because it is more about doing what is in my control. I look at it this way: You get a game, go out there, try and put your team in a good position. If you are having a good day, try and win the match for your team. The rest will take care of itself.
How has your work ethic changed after your international debut?
Nothing has changed. It is still the same in terms of preparations and working hard. Probably, I’m just working harder. I believe you have to get fitter and better. I think now I understand my game better. Also, I’m more mature in terms of how I respond to different conditions and situations. For example, if there is a green-top or damp wickets, I make better decisions on what strengths to stick to.
You’ve been through the hard grind of domestic cricket. Does it still remain very relevant to you?
I believe in playing a lot of matches. Domestic cricket in my opinion is very important. As a player, you cannot disregard it. Whatever you do, you cannot forget that it is the foundation. There is a lot of grind and situation you go through in domestic cricket, so it teaches you a lot as a person and a cricketer.