In IPL 2021, when KL Rahul had to miss a match, Mayank Agarwal was made the stand-in captain for the Punjab Kings. It was a group stage match against the Delhi Capitals in Ahmedabad.
While the result may not have been in favour of the Punjab Kings, Mayank Agarwal’s contribution to the team as a batter and as a captain did not go unnoticed. With the bat, he scored a brilliant 99* (58), and his actions as a leader prompted the team management to have faith in him and retain him for the Tata IPL 2022.
Head Coach’s faith in Mayank Agarwal
Ahead of the Tata IPL 2022, Mayank Agarwal was given the baton of captaincy by the team management. Anil Kumble, in particular, said words of high praise to Agarwal.
Our Head Coach is all praises for the 🆕 #CaptainPunjab! 🤩#SaddaPunjab #PunjabKings #TATAIPL2022 @anilkumble1074 pic.twitter.com/4Sk0MuhPgH— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) February 28, 2022
The Head Coach further added, “Mayank has been an integral part of the side since 2018 and of the leadership group for the last two years. The new squad we selected at the recently concluded auction has exciting young talent and outstanding experienced players.”
He also spoke for the management and about the long-term plans the team has with Mayank Agarwal at the top. “We want to create a strong foundation for the future with Mayank at the helm,” Kumble reinforced, showing the belief he and the team management held in the new captain.
Agarwal takes over
Mayank Agarwal accepted the captaincy responsibilities with grace and pride. “I have been at Punjab Kings since 2018 and I take a lot of pride in representing this fantastic unit. I am delighted to be given the opportunity to lead the team,” he said.
“I take over this responsibility with utmost sincerity, but at the same time, I believe my job would be made easier with the talent we have at the Punjab Kings squad this season,” he further said.
When he first addressed the team as a captain, the assembled squad was given a purpose, an approach towards games and ignited a fire in them to go big. The mostly-new team in Punjab Kings colours was motivated by the captain at every step.
The 👑 with his first-ever speech of the season 🗣#CaptainPunjab means business, pure business! 👊#TATAIPL2022 #SaddaPunjab #PunjabKings @mayankcricket pic.twitter.com/OPHZCrTvbi— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) March 19, 2022
The team delivered with a big win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the opener. However, the capabilities of the team was not the only takeaway from that game.
Backing the boys
While that match saw most of the team contributing to the win, one youngster failed to get going - Raj Bawa. The debutant, fresh from a very successful U-19 season, had a forgettable game with a golden duck.
However, as the youngster walked back into the dugout, captain Agarwal stepped out, walked Bawa to his seat as he patted and consoled the boy. This might be a small gesture, but for someone so young succumbing to nerves while making their IPL debut, this sure meant a lot.
Similarly, when Gujarat Titans snatched a win with a last-ball six against PBKS, Odean Smith was at the receiving end of a lot of backlash for not defending 19 off the last over and six runs particularly off the last ball. As the Jamaican crumbled in despair, he found the captain's arm around his shoulder, giving him solace.
Agarwal both literally and figuratively had Smith’s back. “Last over could have been anyone's game. We totally back Odean, it's fine, he probably had a hard game but that's fine. We back him 100%,” the captain had said.
As a leader, this quality of his to care for his players at their lowest moment makes him standout. Sometimes, it is not scrutiny certain individuals need, it is support and a safe environment that makes them bring out their best. Mayank Agarwal is definitely ensuring this is actioned.
The tactical changes and faith in youngsters
Alternating wins and losses for the PBKS team meant that consistency and form became a concern. Agarwal confidently made tactical and strategic changes after consulting with the management about the team’s structure.
He juggled with Sandeep Sharma and Vaibhav Arora depending on the opponents. He backed Rishi Dhawan to make an impact despite an injury and brought in Jitesh Sharma, who fans and critics alike have claimed to be the find of the season.
He also accommodated Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who had a stellar start but sat out after the return of Jonny Bairstow, after noticing his good hitting in the nets and understanding the value he brought to the game. This, too, was a mid-season change that paid off immensely.
Another strong move was to back Jonny Bairstow despite a string of low performances. The big show was just around the corner and it came at a time when the team needed it the most - with the Tata IPL 2022 playoffs qualification nearing.
He also got the best out of Liam Livingstone, who has flourished and done justice to his position in the middle along with Jitesh Sharma.
A team guy, through and through
Even though the PBKS captain prefers playing at the top of the order, the last few games, he has walked out to bat only in the middle, displaying flexibility and team spirit to accommodate players with a higher command at the top to play in their preferred positions.
Jonny Bairstow, who found himself among runs after a dry spell, came into his comfortable space when he opened the innings alongside Shikhar Dhawan instead of coming after a few wickets fell. His form has benefitted the team greatly.
Cricketing icon Ian Bishop also shared his thoughts about Agarwal’s genuine work.
Something about Mayank Agarwal is so deeply honest, real and likable. Seems to be a top guy. Wishing him and his team the best @PunjabKingsIPL however the season ends up.— Ian Raphael Bishop (@irbishi) May 13, 2022
Sanjay Manjrekar also shared his thoughts on Mayank’s captaincy…
Want to see a true team man/leader? Look no further than Mayank Agarwal, sacrificing the opening position at which he has been hugely successful to offer Bairstow the best chance to flourish. So along with ‘well played’ Jonny, let’s also say well done Mayank!— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) May 14, 2022
…Which a lot of fans and critics also agree with
Mayank has won ❤️ #IPL2022— Nordic CricPundits (@CricPundits) May 13, 2022
Selfless captaincy, taking victories & defeats in the stride, believing in all players, compromising his own batting spot for the team’s sake!
Gave up opener’s slot which nobody would leave for any reason!
He is the captain Punjab needed!#PBKS https://t.co/Z9TRbChImA
Glad the commentators are talking about Mayank Agarwal's move to No.5, giving up his opening spot for Jonny Bairstow.— Saurabh Somani (@saurabh_42) May 13, 2022
Top order the best position for T20 batting, middle-order most difficult. Mayank individually is better off opening, but he's been selfless in opting to move down
Mayank Agarwal ❤️— IN Veer (@through_theGAP) May 14, 2022
"Till the time team is winning I'm okay to bat at 5-6" - Mayank Agarwal.— `` ✧ (@Kohliophile) May 13, 2022
Fr you can't hate this man ✌️
Want to see a true team man/leader? Look no further than Mayank Agarwal, sacrificing the opening position at which he has been hugely successful to offer Bairstow the best chance to flourish. So along with ‘well played’ Jonny, let’s also say well done Mayank!— immurabz (@immurabz) May 14, 2022
Well done, Mayank, indeed! Whatever the result, he has given the Sher Squad a lot to cherish and look back at in the Tata IPL 2022.