'Once you know your car well, then you know to drive the car in the race.'
While Rohit Sharma walked away with the plaudits in the first Test against South Africa at Visakhapatnam, his opening partner Mayank Agarwal held his own with a maiden Test double century.
Mayank, 28, played a cracking innings of 215 and his personal coach R X Murali is impressed with his ward's first major milestone in his fledgling career.
Murali, who has been coaching Mayank for seven years, says his application was very impressive and points out that his calm mindset is one of the reasons why he went on to play such a big knock in only his fifth Test.
"For me, his mindset was the biggest thing that stood out. I was extremely happy with the way he applied himself, with the way he responded. His mindset was pretty calm and it looked like he was always in control of his innings," Murali tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian.
"Being in control of yourself in the middle is the most important; that is one of the reasons he was able to achieve what he did in the match. I was very, very impressed with his batting," Murali adds.
For someone who was on the verge of being dropped from the Karnataka team to cementing his place as India's opener in just two years, Mayank's turnaround is impressive.
He was out for a duck in both innings in the Ranji Trophy game against Hyderabad and looked set to be axed for the next match. But Karnataka Captain R Vinay Kumar showed faith in the youngster's ability and told him to start afresh. The rest, as they say, is history.
Mayank hit a triple hundred in the very next game against Maharashtra and there was no looking back as he ended up with 1,160 runs in the 2017-2018 Ranji Trophy season.
"It was very frustrating to see somebody who would score good 20s and 30s and get out in T20s. That was the reason we got together. Our whole endeavour was to be more consistent. We had to rediscover his whole game altogether. We told him 'If you develop the ability to play 150 balls without getting emotionally distracted, then you give yourself more opportunity to score runs. If you are giving yourself only 30, 40 or 50 balls and even if you are scoring a rate of run-a-ball you will end up 30 or 40'."
"So we changed his mindset from a run-oriented goal to playing more balls; that was the process. The whole objective was to play more number of balls irrespective of how many runs he scored," Murali explains.
"The progression has been immense. He used to be one of those batsmen who would love to hit the ball, irrespective of the conditions and irrespective of the situation, to somebody who started reacting to the ball. That has been the transition."
Mayank, a big fan of Virender Sehwag, started out in domestic cricket in Sehwagian fashion, trying to dominate the bowlers. In the last couple of years Murali has worked with him to improve his shot selection and thereby improve his consistency.
"He idolises Sehwag a lot. It started off that way, then the desire to be more consistent is bringing him success. So, eventually, what game plan we had was to get better with the ball selection, get better with the decision-making abilities and have a clear game plan; what to play and what not to play," Murali says.
He believes the key to Mayank's success with the bat in the last couple of years has been the ability to gauge the conditions as well the opposition and adjust his game accordingly.
"What we have done in these seven years is to understand his game better. Once you know your car well, then you know to drive the car in the race. He has understood his game very well now."
"He now knows these are the shots I can play, these are the bowlers I can play particular shots against in different conditions. Like, if the ball is swinging or if the ball is spinning. So he knows his game very well. That is the awareness we have created; then he decides what to play and how to play," says Murali.
Mayank started off his Test career with a bang, called up mid-way through the Australia tour in December 2018, with a brilliant 76. Murali was disappointed he was unable to carry on and gifted his wicket away to off-spinner Nathan Lyon trying to hit over the top.
Murali believes that, in many ways, that dismissal at the MCG was an eye-opener for Mayank.
"We understood that trying to hit Nathan Lyon, getting out on the boundary line... we feel he could have responded to that (situation) much better. He realised that and he has made some adjustments. After fighting it out for 75 runs and holing out to the fielder on the boundary is not a smart thing. That is the realisation we worked on and then we hope that doesn't happen again."
In the Visakhapatnam Test, Rohit Sharma's brisk century eased the pressure off Mayank, and he was able to bide his time on the opening day before going on to score the double century on Day 2.
Murali believes batting with Rohit was the best thing that could have happened for Mayank. "It was a blessing. He developed a good relationship with Rohit in the West Indies. Rohit was kind enough to walk up to him in the first Test when Mayank didn't get many runs and console him. Coming back and opening the batting with Rohit made a lot of difference to him," says Murali.
"Knowing Rohit's game, it is just a matter of time before he takes on the bowlers; it becomes easier for the batsman at the other end. Also, reassurance from a player like Rohit can do a world of good to any batsman, not only Mayank. Players like Rohit, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane passing on good words can make a lot of difference."