Afzal Jiwani is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo Hindi. @jiwani_afzal
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Mayank Agarwal, who had a disappointing run in IPL 2022 with the bat while leading Punjab Kings, has been working on trying to turn his white-ball game around by "opening up four-five areas".
Agarwal tallied just 196 runs in 12 innings for Kings in IPL 2022, averaging 16.33 and striking at 122.50 - he was not even among the top five scorers for his side in the competition. But now, at the Maharaja T20 Trophy - the local T20 tournament in Karnataka - he has struck 480 runs in 11 innings at an average of 53.33 and strike rate of 167.24, with two centuries, for Bengaluru Blasters.
"In the last four months, I've really worked hard on my batting. As you can see, I've started sweeping and reverse-sweeping the ball, that too against the fast bowlers," Agarwal told ESPNcricinfo. "I've opened up four-five areas in my game which are paying rich dividends. I am very happy that the hard work I put in is paying off now.
"Getting two hundreds in a T20 tournament like the Maharaja Trophy feels amazing. It feels really nice when the players respond to you the way you want. Obviously runs behind my back really makes me feel good and then I can lead from the front."
In the 287 balls he has faced in the Maharaja T20 Trophy, Agarwal has hit as many as 50 fours and 20 sixes and brought up centuries off 48 balls against K Gowtham's Shivamogga Strikers and off 58 balls against Gulbarga Mystics led by Manish Pandey. The last win put Blasters in the final.
At a time when the surfeit of international cricket is forcing India's team management, and selectors, to broaden the pool of players to never-before proportions, Agarwal has been conspicuous by his absence. He has played 21 Tests and five ODIs [but no T20Is] over the years, but the last of them came back in March against Sri Lanka in Bengaluru. He wasn't picked in the original squad for the fifth Test at Edgbaston in July, but flew across as cover for KL Rahul, who was injured, and Rohit Sharma, who had tested positive for Covid-19. He didn't play the Test, though, because India decided to open with Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara.
"I am somebody who isn't going to give up," Agarwal said about his international future. "I am going to keep chasing it and improve my game with each passing day. I will be very happy with whatever comes my way, but the aspirations and dreams never die.
"It's about going out there, improving and ticking all those boxes."