Mayank Agarwal has made a strong impression on his first assignment with the India A side - 377 runs from four innings with two big hundreds. His coach Rahul Dravid was pleased that the opening batsman has been converting his starts and was showing "very good hunger" and wondered if the pain of being dropped from his Ranji Trophy side Karnataka had been a bit of a "wake-up call" for him.
Agarwal is known to be a hard-hitting batsman. But his impact has often ended up being quite brief. He was seen as an asset in T20 cricket, as evidenced by his playing 71 matches in that format since his debut in 2010. But over four seasons of List A cricket, he has played only 23 matches. He made his first-class debut a full three years after his T20 debut, and has only played 13 long-format matches since then. Last year, he was among those in the running to open for Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy, but was benched halfway through the season.
"Maybe just being dropped from the Ranji Trophy side last year [has shaken him up]," Dravid said. "He was not part of the side when they went on to win a final, in the XI. And I think that might have hurt him. You can say there was a certain amount of valid criticism because for a guy of his talent, not to get a first-class hundred [is not good]. It's obviously tough in a side like Karnataka with so many young batsmen coming through. You've sort of got to really be consistent and score runs. And he missed out. So maybe, I think, that has been a really big wake-up call for him."
Agarwal isn't the finished product yet. A good, sharp bouncer seems to put him in a tangle, especially considering he doesn't want to stop himself from hooking. And his 176 could have easily been 29 had South Africa A made the most of their opportunities. But there has been improvement. In 2011, he averaged 14.93 from 15 matches across formats. His figures in 2012 were only marginally better - 20.86 from 20 matches. In 2015, he has 855 runs from 22 matches at 42.75.
"He's worked really hard in the off-season," Dravid said. "I can see he has worked very hard on his fitness. He's lost a lot of weight and he's been batting a lot. I have had a few conversations with him even during the IPL when he played against us [Rajasthan Royals]. You could see that he was very keen."
The upturn began showing in the Vijay Hazare Trohy this year, when he scored 426 runs at an average of 60 and shot into contention for India A.
"He recognised he had done well; he did well in the Vijay Hazare trophy in the back end which got him selected for this," Dravid said. "He did well in the IPL, so maybe there's been a turnaround. I wouldn't know the exact reasons for it, but maybe just the fact of being dropped can hurt you."