Does Mayank Agarwal fit into the ODI team
The injury to Vijay Shankar in the ICC World Cup this year opened the gates for Mayank Agarwal to be drafted into the ODI team for the edition. Though he did not get a chance to make his ODI debut in the event, the management made it clear that the Karnataka batter was being seen as a possible entrant in the 50-over format, either at the top of the order or at the important number four position. Recently, the injury to Shikhar Dhawan again prompted the selectors to turn to Agarwal for the ODI series against Windies, where once again he warmed the sidelines as KL Rahul opened with Rohit Sharma.
The question on whether Agarwal deserves a spot in the ODI team is primarily based on two factors – his past performances in List A and T20 cricket, and how his immediate contenders are faring.
The batsman made an immediate impact in Test cricket when he was sent to open the innings in Australia, once again after being called in as an injury replacement to Prithvi Shaw. Smashing two 70s in his first two Tests, Agarwal impressed with his maturity, technique and his temperament – skills needed to excel in the tough conditions in Australia. He had a relatively silent tour of Windies with the Test team as he was able to conjure up 5, 16, 55 and 4 in four innings, but was a man on a mission once the home season dawned. With three hundreds, including two double tons in six innings thereafter against South Africa and Bangladesh, Agarwal displayed that he was here to stay, not only in Tests but also in the shorter formats.
His knock of 242, in particular, against Bangladesh at Indore showed just why Agarwal could make more than a decent player as a regular in the Indian ODI team. The monstrous innings contained eight huge sixes, all clean, classical shots down the ground. As he took the Bangla spinners apart by dancing down the track, he gave a glimpse of his text-booking style flair, while his six to reach the double hundred showed his confidence and his panache for risks. Almost Sehwag-esque, Agarwal’s approach in Test cricket is refreshing, and if his List A and T20 numbers are analyzed, there is enough reason to believe that the Karnataka player can be a success in the ODI and the T20I teams as well.
Agarwal was the leading run-scorer in the 2017-18 Vijay Hazare Trophy, India’s domestic one-day tournament, with 723 runs in eight games. He was the leading run-scorer for Karnataka in the 2018-19 edition, while he amassed 116 runs in two innings this year, with a high score of 69. What is interesting to note is that the runs came at a strike-rate of 131.81 in 2019. His career strike rate after 79 List A games is over 101, while his T20 strike-rate is an impressive 132.13. Agarwal made waves in the Indian Premier League this year, when he smashed 332 runs in 13 innings at a strike rate of 141.88 – which is evidence of the fact that the batter is anything but a one-format player.
Agarwal has worked hard on his game since he made his domestic debut in 2010, and has the great ability to switch gears from format-to-format, and there is no reason to believe that he cannot be a thundering success in the ODIs as well.
However, is there a practical chance that he makes his white-ball debut soon?
Seeing the recent Indian team, Agarwal can only be slotted in at number 4 or as an opener, with the other positions more-or-less sealed. It was the injury to Dhawan that prompted his selection in the ODI team for Windies, but with KL Rahul already in the ranks, he had to wait his turn and would only have been given a look-in if the latter failed. However, bolstered by a fine run in T20s, Rahul seized his chances by scoring 6, 102 and 77 in the three ODIs to effectively emerge as the third opener in the side.
India’s number four woes were well-documented, with the position proving to be an Achilles Hell in the World Cup too. Agarwal, then, would have been fancying his chances at number 4, even if that is not his regular batting slot. The revamp of the side, however, after the edition, saw the Indian team pick up and give extended opportunities to Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey. The Mumbai player Iyer latched on to his chances, playing according to the situation. He played the waiting game in the first ODI against Windies at Chennai and then followed it up with a blitzkrieg at Vizag to emerge as the top contender for the middle order berth going into 2020.
Batting any lower than four might throw Agarwal off his game, and even though Kedar Jadhav’s spot at six can be contested, it is unlikely that the team will throw the former so low and late into the innings.
Thus, even though Agarwal is a talented star who can create an equal impact like he has in Tests, he might just have to wait his chance.