'His energy will motivate the team': Mayank Agarwal’s coach speaks to TNM

In a freewheeling chat, Irfan Sait traces Mayank's journey to the World Cup and explained how the 28-yr-old had more mental than physical obstacles to overcome in his path.
'His energy will motivate the team': Mayank Agarwal’s coach speaks to TNM
'His energy will motivate the team': Mayank Agarwal’s coach speaks to TNM

Mayank Agarwal has been flown in to England to replace Vijay Shankar in the Indian World Cup Squad. And if there is one person more overjoyed than the cricketer himself, it is his coach Irfan Sait. Director of the Karnataka Institute of Cricket and often referred to as the 'Godfather of Karnataka Cricket', the coach says he knew his ward had the potential to make it all the way to the top. In a freewheeling chat with TNM, Irfan traces Mayank's journey and explains how the 28-year-old had more mental than physical obstacles to overcome in his path.

What do you make of Mayank's call-up to the World Cup squad? Do you think he should have been part of the original team?

I cannot decide on who should be in the original squad but I am extremely delighted that he has been called up. Just his energy will motivate the team further. When given a chance in Australia, in the test series, he really proved himself. I expect him to do well in the World Cup too.

How do you see Mayank's progress as a cricketer?

Mayank has great potential. His only problem is self-doubt. While attention to detail is good, over-analysis can paralyse a player sometimes. When he was playing under-19, he had a couple of failures and was disappointed. We counselled him and told him this is part of cricket. He was however dejected and said all his hard work was not paying off. At that point, Mohammad Azharuddin — former Indian captain and my friend, who was tracking Mayank's progress told me to ask him to bat with joy.

'Khush ho ke khelo' were his exact words. We wrote this on Mayank's bat. And soon after that, he was back to his own self and played phenomenally, even getting selected for the Under-19 World Cup.

What is the influence of the two Rahuls — KL Rahul and Rahul Dravid, in Mayank’s life?

Mayank and KL Rahul have literally grown up together and now they are teammates. As for the senior Rahul, the whole nation admires and respects him. We all absolutely adore him. The grooming Mayank got in the Under-19 World Cup has gone a long way in helping him play better and to build his confidence. To have a senior player like Rahul Dravid tell you that you are good, really helps younger players.

Has he modelled his game on any batsman?

I used to say that he was like Virender Sehwag but Mayank responded that Sehwag was a legend and incomparable. We know each player is different and we want him to be an original and tread his own path.

How did you become Mayank's coach? Do you remember when he first came to your academy?

I remember it very well. He was a teenager, barely 14 or 15 when I started coaching him. He came with another schoolmate of his to join the academy but I had already noticed his game. He was a good cricketer and I used to observe him on the field during school matches. He didn't score too well in the particular game that I saw but he was one of those players who was very proactive. He wanted to cover all areas of the field, he was energetic. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would be a wonderful cricketer. As a youngster, he had a few flaws but he was definitely a cut above the rest.

Was he dedicated to the game? What was your assessment? 

A few days ahead of his first league game, he ran into a pole during fielding practice. He had a deep cut under his eye and it looked like he was ruled out. We were quite disappointed because we were planning the opening around him. He was only 15 years old but remained very brave and insisted that he will play. He had sutures under his eye but remained confident. The day of the match he got a smaller bandage under the eye, removed sutures and hit a knock that won the match for us. He used to play cricket for at least 9 hours a day. It was like a full-time job for him. 

Which format of the game suits him the best?

All three to be honest. He once scored a double hundred in the T20 format in an under 16 semifinal game. Even journalists who heard about it couldn't initially believe it. He has won a 50-over competition for our Jawans club and in the same season, he played well in a Test match as well. There are more limited over games happening and so he got labelled as a 'limited overs player'. But given a chance, he can excel in all formats.

What were your emotions, when he got called up?

I was extremely happy. When he bats, it is like my own child is out there. I am like the father figure in my academy. Every success they have, we celebrate and we feel the pinch during a failure but we never show it in order to not demoralise them. When a player succeeds, there are only two people who truly feel joyous. One is the parent and the other is the coach. 

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