Mayank Agarwal of Kings XI Punjab bats during the match.
Mayank Agarwal, much like his predecessor KL Rahul, will have to act as a vital cog in their batting line-up as well as raise the bar of the underperforming team as a leader. Image Credit: BCCI

Kolkata: The role of a captain in the pressure cooker atmosphere of IPL is always a demanding one - unless one is a Rohit Sharma or ‘MSD’ with nothing much left to prove. Mayank Agarwal, the prolific opening batter for Punjab Kings who has been hoisted in the hot seat after the departure of his ‘partner-in-crime’ KL Rahul for the 2022 season, is aware of the challenges and wants to take a fresh guard.

The Rahul-Agarwal duo had, over the past two seasons, been one of the most prolific opening pairs in the league but still had to endure the agony of seeing their team failing to finish on the right side of a number of close finishes. They finished in sixth position in last two seasons despite looking good in the odd phases of the campaign, but Agarwal strongly feels that the only way forward is to forget the past and take a fresh guard.

‘‘It’s a new season and we have a new team. Yes, we will certainly try to learn from our mistakes but we don’t want to carry any baggages from the past failures. The idea is to stay positive and take a fresh guard,’’ said the 31-year-old Indian Test opener.


While there were a few eyebrows raised when Mayank, a genial personality, was announced as the leader but then the management of the franchise had clearly wanted to honour his seniority as he and young seam bowler Arshdeep Singh were the only two retained players. The Karnataka opener had been with the Mhoali-based since 2018 and said: ‘‘I am thankful to the management for giving me this responsibility. They have worked hard to put together a squad in the auction which, to my mind, has the capacity to go and win the title.’’

Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive phone interview from their base in Mumbai, Mayank felt that the team had invested in a right mix of experience and youth in the mega auction in February. While he and Rahul, close friends from their junior days enjoyed a wonderful synergy in the middle, Mayank felt the arrival of the hugely experienced Shikhar Dhawan will certainly ease some of the pressure on him in the Powerplays. ‘‘I don’t need to say this but he has been a phenomenal white ball player and has been in great from in the past few editions. The presence of the likes of Shikhar bhai, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone and Kagiso Rabada means we have got a strong leadership group which is only going to make my job easier,’’ he said.

Interestingly, it will be the first season after a while that they will be without the services of the ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle, who did a decent job at an unaccustomed No.3 spot for them. This is where, according to Mayank, the ‘‘serious firepower’’ of Bairstow up the order, Shahrukh Khan and the hard-hitting leg spinner allrounder Liam Livingstone can give them the depth.

The presence of the likes of Shikhar bhai, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone and Kagiso Rabada means we have got a strong leadership group which is only going to make my job easier

- Mayank Agarwal, Punjab Kings captain

‘‘Since we knew at the time of auction that the matches are likely to be played in Mumbai, it was easier for the management to go for certain players,’’ he said, possibly referring to the logic behind acquiring Rahul Chahar, the young leg spinner from Mumbai Indians and buying back Harpreet Brar, the left-arm spinner who had singehandedly won them a match against Royal Challengers Bangalore last year.

The new Punjab captain was also excited about having Rabada leading their pace attack this year. ‘‘We all know how much he contributed to the performance of Delhi Capitals for the last few seasons. As a batter, I would rather have him on the same team rather than against me while off the field also, he is a great guy,’’ he said.

Much like his predecessor Rahul, Mayank is expected to share the same comfort zone with their head coach Anil Kumble. ‘‘Yes, Anil bhai has seen me right from my formative years in Bengaluru and I have been playing under him for the last two seasons. We gell really well and I will be always picking his brains,’’ he signed off.