Shastri: 'Pressures of captaincy' may have cost Mayank Agarwal a spot in India's squad

Former India coach feels Agarwal's batting woes came at the wrong time since selectors “judge on current form”

Former India coach Ravi Shastri believes Punjab Kings should relieve Mayank Agarwal of the captaincy in order to get the best out of his batting skills, much like how Chennai Super Kings did with Ravindra Jadeja.

Shastri said the pressure of captaincy affected Agarwal’s batting, and it might have even ended up costing him a place in the India squads announced on the last day of the league stages of the IPL, because the selectors “judge on current form”. Agarwal managed to score just 196 runs at an average of 16.33 and a strike rate of 122.5 as Punjab Kings ended the season at sixth, having won seven and lost seven matches.

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“Mayank Agarwal is in the same boat as Ravindra Jadeja,” Shastri said on ESPNcricinfo’s analysis show T20 Time Out. “Guys who have never captained sides, you ask them to captain franchises. This is no disrespect to Mayank. Because I love the kid. I know how he plays his cricket, how determined he is. But it’s putting a guy who is very good at what he does in a wrong place. And it can have problems. Serious problems. Serious repercussions. It could have cost him his place in the Indian side. Test side, everything, because the selectors will judge on current form, they will judge on what they actually see.

“So it hurts me because I know how good a player he is. But obviously the pressures of captaincy will weigh on anybody’s mind. You saw Jadeja turning out to be a different cricketer. Mayank Agarwal turned out to be a different cricketer. We know how good they are as individual cricketers. In future this is a strong message to the franchise to be very smart about who you pick as captain.”

Should Kings follow Super Kings’ lead then?

“It’s Punjab’s headache,” Shastri said. “Punjab should. I mean to get the best out of Agarwal. Fabulous player. But if you put that kind of pressure on him, then you can see. I don’t want to go into details but you can see that it is affecting him.”

Agarwal dropped down the order midway to make way for Jonny Bairstow after his initial struggle at the top of the order. His move down the order allowed Bairstow to play more freely but the middle order remained a challenge for Kings as Agarwal couldn’t create much impact there.

Daniel Vettori, himself a former coach in the IPL and a current one in other leagues, said Agarwal’s role as captain would be the most important part of whatever review Kings undertake.

“You have to look at the options first and foremost,” Vettori said. “Because the conversation around Rishabh Pant last night, you see that some of the Delhi management sort of came out reasonably critical of his captaincy. So what are the options? That’s always the starting point around making these decisions.

“I think it will be one of the top reviewed topics they will have. Not necessarily whether Mayank was a good captain but whether his leadership has affected his batting. Because what you want from players is primarily their first skill. And so if Mayank produces [runs] as a batsman, potentially his leadership is better. But why put all that pressure on him?”

On his part, Agarwal sounded satisfied with the brand of cricket his side played even though they couldn’t make it to the playoffs. “

There are a lot of positives for us,” Agarwal told Star Sports. “The way [Liam] Livinsgtone [whom Shastri called the best overseas player of this IPL] has batted, the brand of cricket we have played, Shikhar [Dhawan] has been consistent, Arsh [Arshdeep Singh] has really put his hand up, Jonny [Bairstow] when he has opened the batting has been phenomenal, Harpreet [Brar] has come off well. We have a lot of players who have really stepped up and done well.

“Obviously with the aggressive brand of cricket we play, there are going to be times when it is not going to come off and it is going to look bad. Understanding that and still to do it has been the thing for us. And if we can play the kind of cricket in this game, we will definitely really do well next season.

“Just we couldn’t stitch two back-to-back wins, that is something we have spoken about. As a batting unit when we lost wickets, we lost wickets in a cluster. That at times derailed us a bit. Apart from that I think for us we have been a very positive unit. We have played an aggressive brand of cricket. And that’s what we look to do.”