India v South Africa Test: How Mayank Agarwal made it monumental...

Mid-Day Infomedia Ltd

Visakhapatnam: Summoned to Melbourne last December, midway through the tour of Australia, Mayank Agarwal took little time to embrace the challenge of Test cricket. A new outlook to life as a whole, and to batting and fitness in particular, had brought him a bucketful of runs including more than a thousand in the Ranji Trophy in one month alone towards the end of 2017.

Extending that purple patch, he fashioned efforts of 76 and 42 at the MCG to play a significant hand in India's 137-run win which eventually helped them secure a historic 2-1 series triumph. Three fifties in his first six Test knocks held the promise of plenty to follow, and Agarwal delivered on that promise yesterday, converting his maiden century at the international level to a monumental 215.

Alongside Rohit Sharma, his third opening partner in five Tests, he realised a massive 317 to put India firmly in command of the first Test against South Africa at the ACA-VDCA Stadium.

Before his purple patch during the 2017-18 domestic season, the Karnataka opener embraced vipassana, the ancient meditation technique upon prodding from his businessman father, Anurag. Also, alongside coach R Muralidhar, he worked long hours on his batting and fitness, elements that helped him stay focussed, fresher and stronger for longer periods.

"Long-distance running has helped me. When I was training before that season, we made sure we batted five to six hours," Agarwal, looking fresh as a daisy, said at the end of a day's play that South Africa ended on 39 for three in reply to India's 502 for seven declared.

"We would make sure we had a two-and-a-half-hour, session take a little break and then bat again. It is just preparing in that manner, preparing to bat for long hours combined with long-distance running, which has helped me."

Virat Kohli knows a thing or two about batting big, and he had just one message for Agarwal before the start of the second day, with the opener on 84. "He told me the same thing twice. He told me, 'Listen, you have 80 now, bat through'. Even after I got a hundred, when he came out to bat, he said, 'bat long'. It's about the team and the way they encourage and the environment that is created to go out there and perform. It's not about personal milestones, it's about getting those runs for the team," said Agarwal.

Clearly relishing the entertainment from his opening partner, Agarwal gushed: "For him [Rohit] to get such a big score first time opening the batting is tremendous. We all really enjoyed the way he batted — the way he took on the spinners, the way he paced his innings. It was great batting alongside him."

Brief scores

India 502-7d (M Agarwal 215, R Sharma 176; K Maharaj 3-189) v South Africa 39-3 (D Elgar 27*, R Ashwin 2-9, R Jadeja 1-21)

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