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‘Focussed’ Mayank reaps benefits of backing natural game

On a run-making spree this season, the Karnataka opener reveals how Rahul Dravid’s advice turned it around for him

After finishing as the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy 2017 - 18, Mayank Agarwal is topping the batting charts in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2017-18. During his 81-run knock in the semi-final of the ongoing one-day tournament, he surpassed Dinesh Karthik’s record for most runs in a single Vijay Hazare Trophy season. Ahead of the final, he has 633 runs from seven matches at an average of 90.42, including three centuries.

Speaking about the record Agarwal told, bcci.tv, “It feels nice that I have got these many runs. Also, I feel extremely happy that these runs are contributing to Karnataka’s wins.”

‘Try and enjoy the game as much as you can and try and contribute to the team’s success,’ has been Agarwal’s mantra and it has paid rich dividends through the season.

The advice from Rahul Dravid, former India captain and coach of India A and Under 19, has also helped the batsman. “This season during a series against New Zealand A, Rahul bhai was our coach. I spoke to him and during our chat, he told me, 'Mayank you should be more consistent. You should think about managing your mental energies. You are thinking too much, you are trying too hard.' Then he made me understand how he went about things and how he felt there was a difference. I followed his advice of not thinking too much, not over analyzing and enjoying the game rather than always trying to be on the lookout for a few things. I realized I could preserve my mental energies and enjoy the game better, which is important." 

Discussing his form and consistency against the red ball as well as the white ball, Agarwal observed, “I think it is more about the mindset. The basics remain the same. If you understand your role and you understand your game then I think it is more about mindset. It’s about cutting down risks when you are playing four-day and five-day cricket and then more of percentage cricket in fifty overs. In T20s, you play according to the situation – whether high risk or how you decide according to the situation."

However, during a season, cricketers have to switch gears from one format to another in quick time. Explaining how he went about the task, Agarwal said, “That’s the beauty of domestic cricket and international cricket, you have to switch gears quickly. It becomes very important to use the practice sessions, the time between tournaments to go back and set your plans and practice hard for different formats and with a different ball.”

Elaborating further on his process, the opener said, “For Ranji Trophy, it was mostly about practicing for different conditions, playing with new balls more, playing on wet wickets, on astroturf wickets where there is more seam and more bounce. When it came to Twenty20, it was more about playing those few strokes and sticking to those strokes that are my strength.

"In the fifty-over format, it is about pacing the innings well. Also, I practiced hard for the middle overs – between 10 to 40 overs. We practice a lot of match situations and about different conditions, so I got to understand my game better. I was not trying to be technically very correct, but found out my way of doing things."

One of the persons who has helped Agarwal along in his path is his coach. “I would give a lot of credit to my coach RX Murali sir. He has been a big influence, working on mental and technical aspects,” he said.

“We said we will play aggressive cricket and I will look to play my natural game. If I get set, then I need to make it big. That was the focus but no goals in terms of numbers as such,” he added. 

Agarwal has been the mainstay of the Karnataka line-up this season and will be looking to help his side win the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Although one of the more well-rounded teams, a title has been elusive for Karnataka this season. Looking forward to the final against Saurashtra, the batsman said, “I think we played really good cricket. However, we missed out narrowly on the semi-final (Ranji Trophy). Now we are playing the Vijay Hazare Trophy final. We are looking forward to it and we are very excited, but we are going to stick to our process and keep doing the things that have been working for us.”

BCCI Staff

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Can’t wait to get back on the field: Raina

Making a comeback into the Indian side, Suresh Raina spoke about the year gone by, the rigours he went through to make a comeback & the burning desire he has to don the blue
 during the 6th One Day International match between South Africa and India held at Supersport Park Cricket Ground in Centurion on the 16th Feb 2018 

Photo by Ron Gaunt / BCCI / SPORTZPICS

Suresh Raina last played an ODI back in 2015. His latest T20I stint with the Indian team was a year back against England wherein he scored a 45-ball 63. Raina later found himself out of the Indian team with no longer an opportunity to represent the country in blue. No fuss about it, Raina continued to go about his regime working hard every day to get back to where he belonged – the Indian team.

Fast forward to 2018, and he is back in the mix and back to the group where he claims he finds himself amidst ‘a bubbling energy’. The last year has been painful Raina claims, but not once did that burning desire to don the blue fade off, explains Raina.

“I have worked really hard for the last two years and coming to back to the Indian team, it feels like I am playing for the first time in the Indian jersey,” Raina toldBCCI.TV. “I am very happy to be back and I have played a good amount of domestic cricket to get myself in the zone. I am looking forward to the game tomorrow.”

You can almost sense that palpable energy with every statement that he makes. There is yearn in his eyes, that desire to get on the field seems stronger than ever. Afterall, it has been a long time coming and the road to the present has been a tough one.

“I am a very positive person,” he says. “The wait to get back into the team made me tougher and hungrier. Each and every lap I ran during training, I was only thinking about the day I will comeback and represent my country.

“Setbacks give you lessons and they make your character stronger. When you feel things are not going your way, you still need to get your process right and work towards better things. You need to ask questions about your abilities as a cricketer and work towards getting better with each passing day. I became stronger and I have prepared really well to get back here.”

And, who stood by him when the going was tough? “When I didn’t get a chance, I was very strong mentally and got a lot of support from my family. I got a lot of support from our Head Coach Ravi Shastri alongside with captain Virat Kohli. When someone is down, but you have people like them supporting you, it feels great. I wanted to get back to winning ways and this T20I series might well be the beginning.

“It is very important to start well and be mentally strong. I know that I need to just switch on my mind and be mentally tough. It’s all about going out there tomorrow and giving it all. I am hungry to do well and starting off fresh in South Africa feels good since I have played enough cricket in the past here.”

He did look good in the nets. There were those confident front foot drives, the charge down the ground and the flourish to send one soaring out of the nets. Raina displayed it all in his long stint ahead of the nets wherein he received some valuable inputs from assistant coach Sanjay Bangar and Ravi Shastri who were keeping a keen watch over him.

“It was a good net session. I had a long stint and faced some quality bowling from our support staff. I feel I am ready to face some fiery spells against a quality opposition,” chuckled Raina.

The dressing room was no different when it came to being in high spirits. With a dominating ODI series win under the belt, the team is buzzing with positivity. For Raina, the dressing room was like home. “This team is enjoying each others’ success and that makes you believe that you can win any sort of tournament anywhere in the world. I love the dressing room atmosphere and it still feels the same. And when you get a lot of support from all corners in the team, it feels great. The dressing room is bubbling with energy and now it is all about getting on the field and start off with a win.”

Raina reserved some special praise for captain Virat Kohli who has been in ominous form with the bat. He has led by example and has lifted the team’s spirits – a hallmark of his captaincy according to Raina. For Raina, though it is all about making this opportunity count, walking out on the field with his heart on his sleeve and giving it his all.

“Whenever you represent your country, that desire is always there to perform. I am very blessed to have mad a comeback. I am getting a good feel of things at the moment. I want to win games for my country and that is my dream at the moment. I want to go out there and express myself. I have worked hard on my game and waited for my chance to come. I am confident and will make the most of it.” 

Anand Subramaniam

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