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Why Mayank Agarwal now?

Experts, fans and the media are offering diverse reaction to this startling 3-dimensional Vijay Shankar's replacement


By Francis Adams

Mayank Agarwal's dramatic inclusion into the World Cup team has delighted
as well as shocked cricket pundits, fans and the media.
Pic courtesy: flickr.com
Mayank Agarwal, who hasn't played a single One Day International for Team India is on his way to join the World Cup squad instead of traveling to the Caribbean along with his India A teammates.

The Karnataka batsman, who wasn't even among the standbys for the CWC2019, has suddenly been propelled into limited overs cricket's marquee championship. This has triggered mixed and varied responses from fans, media and the experts as this decision defies every criterion that the Board of Contol of Cricket in India (BCCI), selectors and the team management had agreed upon.

The criterion: 


1. Performance in the IPL will not serve as benchmark for selection into the World Cup team. Cricinfo, however, has reported that the selectors were indeed impressed by Agarwal's IPL performance for King's XI Punjab. He scored a total 332 runs with a strike rate of 141.88.

2. Any player ought to have played a modicum of One Day Internationals, at least in a bi-lateral series for the Senior team so that the team management and selectors can gauge his temperament and approach during match at the highest level.

3. Standbys whose names were announced after the first 15 had been picked were assured that they would get a preference should there be a requirement owing to injury to any of the players in the playing eleven. Rishabh Pant, who was on standby, was drafted in as a replacement for Shikhar Dhawan and played India's last World Cup match against England on June 30. The other standby, Ambati Rayudu, ideally a middle order specialist batsman has thus been overlooked and Agarwal given the go ahead instead.

This surprising move from the selectors and team management has obviously raised a few eyebrows. Former India player and now commentator, Aakash Chopra used his twitter handle, @cricketaakash, to gently cock a snook saying: "An opener got injured, a middle order batsman was called upon. 
A middle order batsman gets injured, an opener is called upon. Shankar is Out. Mayank Agarwal is In. #CWC19 #MenInBlue"

Noted mediaman and cricket columnist, Ayaz Memon, announced on his Twitter account @cricketwallah: "BIG: Vijay Shankar ruled out of World Cup, Mayank Agarwal to replace him. India's woes mount."

Another popular commentator, Harsha Bhogle tweeted: @bhogleharsha "Then there is Mayank Agarwal. Top of his game for a couple of years, fine test debut, not among the contenders & then an opportunity to play in a World Cup at a crucial time. Delighted for him & it is a good choice. But it also tells you how far poor Rayudu has gone off the radar."

Sanjay Manjrekar, now among the regulars in the commentator's box for Hotstar in his tweet directed to VVS Laxman, wrote: @sanjaymanjrekar "@VVSLaxman281 See it’s happened! Mayank Agarwal is a great choice as replacement."

Manjrekar seemed to be among the few exceptions who showed delight at Agarwal's choice and sudden elevation. 

What exceptional reasons could have prompted India's selectors and team management, headed by coach Ravi Shastri, captain Virat Kohli and batting coach Sanjay Bangar to summon Agarwal?

The most plausible reasons could be:

1. He did encouragingly well when he batted in four India A one-day innings in England last year, scoring 287 runs at an average of 71.75 with a strike rate of 105.90.

2. In the absence of Dhawan, the burden of positive intent whether batting first or chasing rested on the shoulders of Rohit Sharma and Kohli. KL Rahul, promoted to the opener's slot showed promise but has failed to share the responsibility up the order with Rohit and Kohli due to fanciful shots that have caused his quick exit, as was evident in the match against England.

3. With Pant displaying heart-warming approach to the long-debated No. 4 spot (he scored 32 off 29 balls before getting out to an outstanding catch by Chris Woakes) and with Team India only a step away from sealing their semi-final position, the team management desperately wanted to plug the loophole that Rahul's cavalier approach was exposing. Agarwal, to them, could be the ideal choice.

Bangar, according to Cricinfo, has reiterated that Pant will be persisted with. "He had a decent innings, He got 32. And he got a couple of good shots, got a partnership going. Yes, we are going to persist with Rishabh."

With Rohit, Kohli and Pant, Agarwal could add solidity to Team India's top order. This'll not only help Kohli to play a little more expressively but also address the team's worry of wanting the top order to occupy the crease until 40 overs before the likes of Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni could step in and unleash their aggressive repertoire to finish off the game.

Agarwal's selection has also opened up many more possibilities. Aspiring youngsters, especially those from the India under-19 World Cup and India A teams can now look up with bright hopes of making it to the senior team sooner, provided they maintain their form, including in the Ranji Trophy.

If Agarwal clicks, this would be seen as a bold, masterstroke decision by the BCCI, selectors and team management. For this, Shastri, Kohli and Bangar will themselves have to be bold and make Agarwal play India's last two league matches, against Bangladesh on July 2 and with Sri Lanka on July 5., 

The ideal likely XI for these two matches would be: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja (In place of Kedar Jadhav), Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Back in place of Mohammed Sham), Jasprit Bumrah.

















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