Note to readers: Morning Stars is a series of interviews with achievers across fields about their morning routine and how they get ready for the day ahead. Mornings bring optimism and a fresh start. And how we spend them sets the tone for the day.
Mayank Agarwal opens the batting for India with K.L. Rahul. He opens his days with the sun.
An early riser due to a habit inculcated by his grandfather, and also due to his own motivation, Agarwal starts most days at around 6 am. Even in hard times such as these, with India soundly beaten in South Africa and Omicron in the air, Agarwal says he is not one to mope around in bed.
“Me being a morning person, it’s (getting up early) not hard at all, whether there is Covid or anything of that sort,” Mayank Agarwal, 31, tells Moneycontrol on Zoom from his Bengaluru home, where he is isolating after returning from South Africa. “I’ve always looked at these times, and all the other times when we get a break, as a chance to improve my fitness, to do things which we usually won’t be able to do otherwise,” the Test specialist adds.
Like many Indian cricketers on the South Africa tour, Agarwal did not have a great series. But if India’s famed domination of Tests in the last few years is evaluated, some contributions from Agarwal’s blade stand out. He made 215 and 108 against South Africa in Vizag and Pune, respectively, in 2019, in the course of India’s 3-0 series win. A few days on, he made 243 against Bangladesh, again in a winning cause.
Also creditable was his 76 on debut in the cavernous MCG against Australia in 2018-19. India went on to win the series 2-1, their first ever in Australia.
A conversation with Agarwal on how he starts his day.
Where are you currently? Please describe in brief the scene around you.
I’m at home in Bengaluru... (in) isolation since we came back from South Africa. We live in a nice secluded place and I can see the garden, and I can see lots of trees.
In hard times such as now, with Covid infections and the setback in South Africa, how do you motivate yourself to get out of bed on time?
Me being a morning person, it’s not hard at all, whether there is Covid or anything of that sort. I’ve always looked at these times, and all the other times when we get a break, as a chance to improve my fitness, to do things which we usually won’t be able to do otherwise.
For me motivation really comes from the fact that I’m representing the country, and I need to give myself the best possible chance to succeed.
I like to wake up early, finish training and gym in the morning. And if I can finish (cricket) practice in the first half, or by afternoon, then I know I have the evening free for myself.
Do you have a lights out time?
I don’t have a lights out time. The body itself shuts down by 10.30 pm. 10.30, this guy is gone.
What do you like about mornings?There’s a lot more peace. I love being out in the sun, especially in the morning. Also, just knowing that when you are waking up early, starting your routine, you are ahead of time, you are making disciplined use of 24 hours.
What do you like to listen to in the morning?
I don’t listen to anything in the morning as such, but if I’m driving for my training, I do listen to motivational songs.
When training starts, though, I usually like it quiet. I want it to be as boring, and as hard as possible. Because there I’m not just pushing myself physically, but also mentally.
Some songs on my playlist are Hall of Fame, then music by Fort Minor, Imagine Dragons. It gets me going for the sessions.
What is your morning routine before a big game, such as when you made your debut at the MCG against Australia?
If you are going to make your debut at the MCG (laughs)… I’ll be honest. I thought all about preparation, but I was nervous. All of those preparations went out of the window. It was very, very hard. It was hard to get a hold on the emotions.
I wouldn’t say I had a proper preparation then, but now if you ask me I get up early and do 20-30 minutes of meditation, before I go down for breakfast and then the match.
Have you ever missed the team bus?
Never missed the team bus. No chance. It would be hard for me to look myself in the mirror if I did.
Are there punishments if you still miss the team bus?
I don’t think so. I think people are grown up, people understand their responsibilities, and everyone’s on time. In case it ever happens [that someone is late], people do understand it’s a one-off thing, that it might have been due to a genuine problem or an honest mistake. We move on. We don’t want to hold up things over such a small issue, unless it becomes a habit.
What were mornings like during childhood/ training days? Any amusing memory from that time?
When I was 7 or 8, I was one person who gave my grandfather company. He used to wake up at 5.30-6 am. I would tell him, ‘Please, whenever you wake up, wake me up’. He having done that for me for three years, it became natural that I too began to wake up at 5.30-6 am. I never needed an alarm.
We had school practice at that time. There were times when Grandpa used to come, and I would already be awake. And I’d say, “Aa jao Babuji, I’m ready, chalo jayenge.” He would drop me to school. For me, it was a big thing that ‘Oh, I woke up before Grandpa.’ Those were very good times.
What do you like to see on the breakfast table?
South Indian. I love dosa, idli, bisibelle bhaat. I don’t have vada. South Indian breakfast tops the list for me. I could have it 365 days.
What is your news source in the morning, phone or newspaper?
It’s a mix of both. Whenever I pick up the paper, I love to do the Sudoku, then the word puzzle, and then, obviously, I start reading from the sports page. The rest of it is on the phone.
Which famous stranger would you like to have breakfast with?Roger Federer. I’ve been following his career, he’s my favourite tennis player. I would talk all things sport-related with him.