It has been less than a month since the five-match Test series in England got over, and a couple of days since the Asia Cup 2018 finished as well. Now we are looking forward to the next series already with West Indies playing against India. The selectors announced the squad for the Test series with Virat Kohli returning to the side as captain leading a 15-man squad.
There were some players rested, whereas some were axed owing to form. In midst of all these decisions, came a rather smart one. Mayank Agarwal has finally been selected for the two-match Test series against the Windies. It was a huge sense of relief for the Karnataka batsman, who must have waited for this day for a long long time.
Mayank has been scoring rather emphatically and yet series after series he was overlooked. But now the time has come where we could finally see the run-machine on the field donning an India shirt. A sweet sight that would be, provided he gets shortlisted in the starting XI.
Mayank’s consistent knocks, over years, contributed to him being finally recognised by the selectors and many would agree that he deserved this place more than anyone else. Now comes the actual test for the batsman, as he needs to show that he is meant to rule at the top level. Here we analyse why Mayank fits in well and how he could be the solution for India’s issues.
Mayank and runs go hand in hand
The Karnataka batsman was the top-scorer in 2017/18 Ranji with 1,160 runs at a stunning average of 105.45. He also had a triple century to his name. His prominence grew as 2018 progressed. He continued in the same vein for India A and India B in List A and First-class matches.
So much so, he also scored a brisk 90 for Board President’s XI against the visiting Windies in Vadodara on Saturday. A natural stroke-player, Agarwal played his natural attacking game, hitting 14 boundaries and two sixes.
Selectors had him in their radar
And so the series against Windies provides him with the platform to go and settle in. The bigger picture here is the tour of Australia later this year. India’s main concerns are playing away from home in overseas conditions. They lost two-Test series this year against both South Africa and England. And the crux of these losses were the failure of openers.
Now that Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan has been shown the door, the selectors have gone bold with their decision making. They want new faces to grab this opportunity and score away from home. One feels Mayank could give India the platform which his predecessors lacked in recent times.
A timely message by the selectors
Mayank is 27, and this is the age where most cricketers reach their peak. And to get him in the side now means they could be in for quality cricket and a bag full of runs. The timing is superb for him and the selectors as well. The series against Windies serves as a ticket to Australia and Mayank knows it.
Much like the middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari, who got a call earlier against England, it was time that selectors gave Mayank his due. The message is selection is based on domestic cricket.
WI series crucial for Mayank
He is likely to get an opportunity to open the innings along with KL Rahul, who saved his place after a gritty 149 in the Oval Test earlier this month. But the fight isn’t about scoring at home against the Windies. There is a larger draw here. The main target is India’s tour of Australia and that’s what could drive Mayank to go and give his best.
In an ideal world, Mayank should walk into the XI for both the Tests against West Indies. His form has been magnificent. After missing out on the series against England, Mayank now has his time.
Although, we all hope that Mayank will not meet the same fate as that of his Karnataka team-mate Karun Nair. The middle-order batsman was overlooked by the selectors and didn’t get a single game despite being in the squad against England. Mayank deserves more than just warming the bench.
Can he do well in Australia?
Anybody playing for India in Tests knows that the ultimate challenge will be the Aussies. The Indian openers have failed time and again on pitches suiting fast bowlers. The selectors were looking for someone who can bat away from home and lay a foundation. Mayank could provide that.
With a player of his calibre, Mayank could go and show that he can battle it hard and show teeth and application. The idea will be to take things slowly and first clear the hurdle against Windies. If that’s done, then the management will be assured of starting with him in Australia.
The challenge there will be ominous against a star-studded Aussie pace attack. Moreover, he knows KL Rahul from Karnataka days and the duo could work things out in being a successful pair.