Twelve months ago, Mayank Agarwal was rewarded for a dream run that he had in 2017. But the dream didn't stop there - one by one, he has ticked off long-term dreams, including a Test debut and a spot at the World Cup. After a magical first home season with India, the opener is all set to return to the Ranji Trophy for Karnataka.
Can you believe the year you've had?
Definitely didn't believe any of this. It's unreal. Now it just feels like I'm in a dream. It feels terrific to have all of this and I'm very grateful for whatever has happened. There was a debut at MCG, then a World Cup call-up and some other things.
If you could pick a favourite moment, which one would it be?
I'm not a man of much comparison. I don't believe in comparisons, but I would say winning the Test series Down Under. I've never felt something like that. When we won the series Down Under, that was a special feeling. Never felt anything like that. Getting picked for the World Cup was also a very different feeling, a very nice feeling. And India being on top of the World Test Championship right now and the kind of cricket we're playing - it's also a very great feeling to be part of such a set-up.
Do you feel like you have evolved in this phase?
Having experiences like these has changed me as a person. I have a lot more confidence now and I'm a lot more sure. [So I have evolved] On those aspects and [I am] also able to understand what are the things a person requires to keep continuing to grow.
"I have a lot more confidence now and I'm a lot more sure. [I've evolved] On those aspects and [I am] also able to understand what are the things a person requires to keep continuing to grow" Mayank Agarwal
Did you notice it specifically during any of your Test innings?
I would say that I would be in a bit of a hurry previously. When I was batting on 70-odd, I would be in a hurry. But now having gone through that, I understand that I can be a lot more calmer through that.
You've had immensely positive, attack-minded mentors at the domestic level in J Arun Kumar and RX Murali. Did it feel like an extension of that with someone like Ravi Shastri, the India head coach?
The conversations we had were about playing your natural game, understanding the situation, adapting to the situation, [and] being smart about it. But also not losing your strength, not losing your key factors as a player - that X-factor which is special to you. But also understanding where you need to curb what to suit yourself to that situation.
What was your first conversation with him like when you joined the squad?
He (Shastri) said, '[It's] good to have you score these many runs and come (into the Indian team) and obviously having scored that many runs, confidence is definite'. With that said, when they decided that I'm going to play the game, the talk was about what are the things I need to prepare. What are the challenges I could be facing going into my first game.
So, were the challenges along the lines of calming your nerves down?
And just giving that assurance, that positivity that you are good enough and that you don't have to do anything drastically different. Stick to what you've been doing because that's been working but understand that you also need a little more. Or you need to do things a little more differently. Don't have to do different things, but things a little more differently than domestic cricket.
"...domestic cricket in India is very valuable. You could've played international cricket, but when you come back and play domestic cricket in India, it challenges you. And challenges you in different ways." Mayank Agarwal
A lot of people are surprised by the intensity of how some established players train, among other things, when they enter the dressing room. Did you feel anything like that?
Yeah! I was nervous when I walked into the dressing room. But KL [Rahul] was there. We've been the best of friends since a very young age so having him around helped. But the environment there was very calm, very relaxed and they were very welcoming. I never felt uncomfortable. Everyone did chip in to make me feel at home.
How are you looking forward to the coming three months? You might get almost a full Ranji group stage with Karnataka?
Really looking forward to playing Ranji Trophy. It is this tournament - and having scored runs in this tournament - that got me going up. So, obviously it is big. And domestic cricket in India is very valuable. You could've played international cricket, but when you come back and play domestic cricket in India, it challenges you. And challenges you in different ways. With that said, Karnataka having won the two tournaments [Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy] that we've played this year, we're still hungry; we're not satisfied. We want to play more and I want to try and see what are the best possible ways I can contribute to that.
You only played two Ranji matches last year (2018-19 season); the tense semi-final against Saurashtra being one of them. Is that game something you guys still talk about, in terms of what went wrong?
There was a lot we could learn from that semi-final game. We've had talks about what we could have done better. Obviously, it's a pressure game and when pressure's there, different people react differently - and how we could get better at a few things. But also not just looking at the negatives. We did a few things right as well. So, try and build on that while we reduce the negativity and improve.
It must have been a heartbreaking result, and a lot was going on - bad decisions, angry crowd. What was the immediate chat after that match?
See, it was very disappointing, very heartbreaking. With that said, I think we gave our everything as a team. Yes, the result didn't work out. We were sad. There was not a lot that was spoken. Lot of us were just quiet, trying to soak in our emotions to feel and understand what happened and then sit back and also give ourselves time to reflect. But just feel that staying quiet and being observant around what's happening in those times helped because when emotions run high, it's better to just be quiet at that time and see how it goes from there.
Are you now focussed on getting that treble?
To be honest, we're not focussing on the end result. We've played good cricket this year. So there is a process that we've followed to play the kind of cricket that we're playing. And we'd like to stick to that. Obviously, with a different format you've got to make a few changes. The goal is to reach there (the title and complete a treble), but still looking at following the process and being well within ourselves. Just doing things that have worked well for us.
What would the ideal end of the home season be for you?
It's been a tremendous season for us. Getting full points from all the Tests we've played is something great. There is nothing more you could ask for as a player [than] being in a side which has played and won all the games at home.
[The] Ideal end would be get a lot of runs for the side and Karnataka winning games going forward, and then again wherever the chance is given to [me to] represent India and Karnataka, score runs and win matches. There is something about winning matches and winning tournaments that motivates me. And probably not just me, motivates everybody else. So, it's winning more number of matches. More number of trophies, that's something you crave for.
Not putting a number on it, like, a 1000 runs?
(laughs) No. No I think I don't believe in too many numbers. I believe in contributions or performances that win games. I give a lot of value to that.