A case study for aspiring cricketers on what it takes to break the glass ceiling, the 28-year-old, who waited long for the India cap, has made the opportunities count. Debuting against Australia in Melbourne on Dec 26, 2018, the Bengaluru talent has since played nine Tests and cracked two double-centuries, a century and three fifties to tally 754 runs. He ended the year as the sixth highest run-getter in Test cricket.
Although he is yet to play limited-overs internationals, he was called in as replacement during the World Cup and for the recent series against West Indies. Through the season, when he wasn’t busy piling up runs for India, he returned to the Karnataka side, helping them retain the T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and win the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy. In the new year, Mayank will continue his international run in New Zealand where, he says, the focus and the goal will remain the same, to contribute to the team’s success. In an interview with TOI, the batting sensation opened up on his first year at the top level.
On finishing the season among the top 10 run-getters in Test cricket:
It has been a great learning curve. There have been some tremendous experiences. To be honest, when I got picked into the Test squad or played my first match, I never ever thought about what I needed to do. I just took it one game at a time, put my head down and gave it my best shot each time, every single day. It feels great to contribute to the team. More importantly, what’s most satisfying is that India are the No. 1 team in the world.
The biggest takeaway from the year:
It’s difficult to point out one biggest takeaway. To be able to go out and play in India colours has obviously been special. We’ve had some great wins and I carry those memories with me. I’ve really enjoyed my year as an international cricketer.
On which knock was more special, the 215 against South Africa or the 243 against Bangladesh:
Both. Honestly, I’m not a man for comparisons. Each innings had its own importance. When I got my first double hundred, it was obviously special. Then to get the next double-hundred in the next series was terrific. To me, it reiterated the fact that when I’m set, I’m scoring big and contributing to the team’s success.
How much has your long stint in domestic cricket helped you?
I think I would say that my journey has been different from many others. I’ve quite liked it. Yes, I have had to play a lot of domestic games, which in hindsight has helped me a lot. Playing those games helped me become a better player.
On opening with three different batsmen in seven Tests:
It doesn’t require adjustment because you are opening with top-quality players. You understand your game and they understand theirs. So it is more about communication and having a good rapport with each one of them.
On Rohit Sharma as opening partner:
It was the first time I was opening with him. We just spoke about plans, we had plans for each bowler. We did not overthink, instead we took it as it came and went ball by ball. It was great to have such a big opening partnership (317 against South Africa in Visakhapatnam) with him in our first opening stand. I enjoyed playing with him and watching the way he dominated the spinners. From the non-striker’s end, you could see the bowlers were struggling. The good balls were being hit for four and the bad balls were anyways being punished.
On switching from one format to the other:
Understanding your game becomes very important when you switch formats. Knowing when to take risks and reading situations is the key. When you are playing 50 overs, there is more time than you think. The risk can be a lot more calculative because you have 300 balls to play. That doesn’t happen in T20s. The most essential thing is to understand your game and see what shots you can play on that particular wicket and what you cannot play. Then just having the mental discipline to keep doing that.
On going back to domestic cricket after international assignments:
I think it is about winning tournaments, playing more matches and contributing wherever you go. It keeps me going. Yes, I have thought about breaks, but each time I have come out of a Test series, Karnataka is playing either a quarterfinal or a semifinal of a domestic competition. So obviously you want to be a part of the state side for which you played from your younger days and contribute as much as you can in whatever way. That said, all the while you have to know how much your body can take. So, you push yourself only as much as you can.