Mayank Agarwal became the 295th man to represent India in Test cricket when he was handed his debut cap in the Boxing Day Test against Australia.
He walked out in front of a packed holiday crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, 26 December, to open in his first match. He gave a good account of himself, bringing up a maiden half-century soon after lunch.
The landmark came off 95 balls when he walked down the track and drove straight past the bowler for a boundary. He was finally dismissed just before tea for 76, gloving Pat Cummins to Tim Paine.
These are just the most recent runs in a season of plenty for 27-year-old Agarwal. In the 2017-18 domestic season, he made 2253 runs in 36 innings across formats, including his maiden triple-century in a first-class game for his state Karnataka, to take the record for most runs in an Indian domestic season.
The weight of those runs earned him a call-up to the Indian squad for the home Tests against the Windies, but he didn’t break into the playing XI then. With the Indian openers struggling in Australia, and with Prithvi Shaw out injured, he got his chance in the third Test of the series and grabbed it to make the highest score by an Indian on debut in Australia.
An aggressive batsman, Agarwal slowly rose through the ranks. He had been prolific in age-group cricket. In the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2010, he was India’s highest run-scorer. Coincidentally, he opened with KL Rahul back then, his friend and the man he replaced in the Test side.
He credits a new mental approach to his rich returns in recent times. A spiritual person and a believer in vipassana meditation, he learnt to be less bothered by results and enjoy his game. He also worked hard on developing a skill to bat long hours and shed preconceptions that he was stronger in limited overs cricket.
A regular in the India A side, he credits coach Rahul Dravid for much of his growth. “Rahul bhaitold me, ‘You have to manage your mental energy. If you practice hard for three days before the game and constantly think about it before playing a four-day game, mentally you have already played three days of the four-day game.’ Those words have worked wonders for me,” he told Times of India in an interview.
The practice and hard work are paying off. He will hope this is only the start of a long international career.