Agarwal and Rahul, tale of two of Karnataka's debutants

KL Rahul congratulates Karnataka and India teammate Mayank Agarwal after the latter received the Test cap from skipper Virat Kohli in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Four years apart in time, plenty of runs apart in initial returns, and a wide gulf in current mental state: This is the story of two of the most talented Karnataka batsmen of their age, numbers 24 and 26 from the state to play for India.

KL Rahul, no. 24, gave his best buddy Mayank Agarwal, no. 26, a hug after the latter received the treasured India cap from skipper Virat Kohli on Wednesday. Agarwal went on to make a composed 76 on Test debut, one of the better first efforts by an Indian opener abroad. He batted 161 balls, hitting eight boundaries and a six, and looking particularly confident against Nathan Lyon, the off-spinning bugbear of many of his teammates through the series.

“In his knock today, it’s his clarity that stood out. He kept his elbow close to his body and didn’t play the back foot punches early on. He controlled something that comes easy to him…his clear mindset helped him attack Lyon, one of Australia’s best bowlers in the series,” said J Arun Kumar, a former Karnataka captain who has coached both Rahul and Agarwal. Flashback to exactly four years ago, same venue, the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG): Rahul, then a callow 22-year-old, was a bundle of nerves and it showed in both innings, particularly the second when he tried a hook and got caught at first slip, of all places, after making 1. 

He had made 3 in the first innings, out to an expansive sweep off – you guessed it – Lyon, and talk swirled of his being blooded too soon.

Always a man of extremes, Rahul answered his critics with a ton in the next match. That, and four more -- including a sumptuous 149 in England recently, should have heralded his arrival, but 33 Tests into his career, he finds himself facing the same questions as four years before and replaced by a state-mate who is a year older.

“He is getting out early. I think he is a little mixed up in his mind. His style is to balance caution with aggression. If you look at his best innings, he has always found a right balance between caution and attack. But right now, he isn’t getting that rhythm,” said Arun Kumar, who termed Rahul a ‘progressive’ player who is constantly in search of improvement.

R X Murali, Agarwal’s personal batting coach, revealed that Agarwal relished the experience of making a debut at the iconic MCG, “feeling like a gladiator walking into the coliseum”. Karnataka clearly are on to a winner with Agarwal but would dearly love to have the more flamboyant Rahul partnering him.

That’s the tale of 24 and 26. What about No. 25, you may ask. His name is Karun Nair, and he got dropped soon after scoring 303 against England. And he appears to be out of Virat Kohli’s field of vision. 

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Agarwal and Rahul, tale of two of Karnataka's debutants

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