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This has by far been Mayank Agarwal's best season. After a slow start, he led the run charts in the Ranji Trophy with 1160 runs at an average of 105.45 with five centuries, including an unbeaten triple hundred. He didn't enjoy the same heady success in the T20 format (Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy), but he still managed to score three half-centuries to finish with 258 runs in nine innings at a strike rate of 144.94. Agarwal, though, was quickly back to his barnstorming best at the 50-over competition - the Vijay Hazare Trophy - where he has amassed 552 runs in six innings opening the batting, with scores of 140, 89, 102, 28, 84 and 109. The second highest run-scorer in the tournament - Siddhesh Lad - is 179 runs behind Agarwal's tally.
On Wednesday, Agarwal smashed a 111-ball 140, including 12 fours and seven sixes, to power Karnataka to a 103-run win over Hyderabad in the quarter-final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. His bountiful run hasn't gone unnoticed; MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, remarked that Agarwal "has been absolutely terrific". Given the selectors' inclination to reward consistency with low-intensity launches into international cricket, Agarwal, 27, will be hoping to get picked in the India squad for the Nidahas Trophy tri-nation T20 tournament in Sri Lanka next month.
Agarwal's success this season, however, has largely been a product of having a "blank mind", and he wouldn't like it any other way. "Stats bore me, I don't play to prove a point to anyone," he told the Indian Express after the Hyderabad game. "I've been enjoying my game over the last four months or so. This can be attributed to being more self-aware about my game and just knowing what my strengths and weaknesses are."
A striking feature of Agarwal's batting is he has maintained a steady tempo across formats. This has been down to a lot of pre-season work with his coach of three years, R Muralidhar. Together, they ensured Agarwal didn't sweat over pre-determined goals and let go of the fear of failure. "There isn't much difference to batting in the three formats. It's just making minor adjustments and playing according to the situation of a game," he said. "In order to address this, Murali sir put me through a lot of situation-based training and asked me to keep setting targets at every five overs of the game."
Agarwal's 242-run stand for the second wicket with schoolmate and friend R Samarth proved decisive in Karnataka's decimation of Hyderabad. Samarth, who made 125 off 124 deliveries, proved the ideal foil to Agarwal. "I am more aggressive in my outlook, while Sam is more dogged in his approach. I guess, that helps both of us," Agarwal said.