Mayank Agarwal’s recent struggles in Australia have opened up a debate over the opener’s slot for the forthcoming third Test in Sydney from January 7. His scores of 17, 9, 0 and 5 in the current series have brought his place in the team under scanner and there’s a strong debate whether Rohit Sharma should replace him in the playing XI.
But this wasn’t quite expected before India came to Australia, the speculation being around the other opener’s slot. The fact that Mayank had smashed 424 runs in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab had given the management and fans the confidence that he would be a success in Australia too. Add to that his performances on his debut tour Down Under in 2018-19 when he made a couple of crucial contributions after coming into the mix from the third Test, and there were enough reasons to feel confident about the Karnataka opener. But this time around, he has been found wanting against Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, especially Starc, whose incoming deliveries at the MCG caught the opener napping.
There is a theory that his backlift has increased and it is like a periscope at the time of delivery, and his right wrist is getting cocked behind his right hip, making it difficult to play the incoming delivery. But a closer look at his videos suggest that it wasn’t too different in 2018-19. Rather, as Sunil Gavaskar points out, it is the gap between his two legs while taking stance that has increased. It is more about a sense of compulsion to come to the front-foot, which probably gave him more hitting options in IPL, but it is making life difficult for him in Australia.
“His new stance is giving him less options on the backfoot, something that he cannot do on Australian pitches,” Gavaskar said during an interview with an Australian TV channel. His strike-rate of 156.45 with this stance on the slow pitches of UAE made him quite a hit, but it’s clear that it’s not working in Test matches against Australia.
Gavaskar feels that Mayank can also try to open his stance just a little bit for Starc bowling over the wicket. “It can help him cover for that movement inside from the left-arm pacer,” the Little Master said.
Deep Dasgupta, though, feels that Mayank is also a little slow in getting down to the deliveries coming in and his wrist is sometimes getting cocked behind his right hip which is creating the trouble. “It happened to me once too and it needs to be worked on. He can probably bring his wrists closer so that he can get to the ball quicker,” Dasgupta told TOI.
It’s to be seen whether Mayank can sort all that out in a matter of a week and get back to his 2018 stance so that the team management can continue to repose faith in him.