New Delhi, Oct 20 : Kings XI Punjab's (KXIP) batting mainstay Mayank Agarwal's gravity-defying leap to save a certain six of Mumbai Indians' Kieron Pollard in the second Super Over on Sunday was a result of several factors -- "deliberate practice" to improve, having a personal dietician and trainer, turning vegetarian last year, and playing hand cricket as a youngster. And a big turnaround came after he was picked in the Indian team in late 2018.
Opening batsman Agarwal, 29, was always a swift, agile, and energetic fielder, but he fielded at close-in positions like silly point and forward short leg. But in the IPL he has been manning the outfield -- long off to long on, and elsewhere - with aplomb. His improved fielding is due to years of practice that he has been putting in since his teenage years while representing Karnataka in age-group cricket.
Even while attending Bishop Cotton School and at JN College in Bangalore, along with KXIP captain KL Rahul and Karun Nair, Agarwal was among "above average" fielders in his group, besides being a solid batsman. But he underwent a dramatic change after making his Test debut in December 2018 to keep pace with the ever rising standard of international cricket.
And in the ongoing IPL he reached dizzying 'height' when he timed his leap almost perfectly at the Dubai International Stadium to deny Pollard a six - he conceded only two runs, saving four -- and Mumbai Indians a win in the second Super Over in Dubai.
"Behind that effort a lot of intense and deliberate practice has gone into. People might not remember, but he made a similar effort while representing Royal Challengers Bangalore against the erstwhile Pune Warriors a few years ago. Such efforts come when one desires to contribute towards his team," former Karnataka under-17 and under-19 coach R. Muraliadhar, who has seen Agarwal grow as a cricketer, told IANS.
"I have observed that those who have played hand cricket are often good fielders. Mayank was always a brilliant catcher; he has taken some mind blowing catches as a youngster. He was also swift in the field, and in the last few years he has undergone a lot of fitness training, and because of that he has become a lot fitter now. He brings a lot of energy," the 50-year-old coach pointed out.
Muraliadhar says that as a teenager Agarwal used to field close to the batsman - at silly point, slips, and forward short leg etc.
"Generally, all premier batsmen end up fielding in slips. He too fielded a lot in slips. But in the IPL he is fielding at different positions - anywhere from long off to long on, where he denied Pollard that six and conceded only two runs. When you are in a mood to contribute towards your team's cause this type of efforts happen. He is an outstanding team man," he emphasised.
"About one-and-a-half years ago Mayank turned vegetarian to remain fit in a competitive world. Today, he has a personal dietician and a trainer. He also plays a lot of seven-a-side, often along with KL Rahul and Karun Nair - they are very close friends - and Manish Pandey and Shreyas Gopal. They have a sort of football team of their own that plays corporate competitions," informed Muraliadhar.
Before KXIP's match against Delhi Capitals on Tuesday, Agarwal was the second top scorer of the ongoing IPL, having tallied 393 runs at a strike rate of 159.11 in nine matches. Only Rahul, with 525 runs, is ahead of him.
Off the field, Agarwal loves cooking and travelling. At least, at the moment he is surely going places.
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