India went on the tour Down Under with Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul and Murali Vijay as their opening options but the 19-year-old Shaw injured his ankle even before the start of the series and was subsequently ruled out. Agarwal was called in as his replacement after the first two Tests, where both Vijay and Rahul had failed to impress.
Making his debut in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, Agarwal, who opened alongside Hanuma Vihari, scored 76 to help India get a head start in a match they went on to win by 137 runs, and take a 2-1 lead in the four-match series. He has since cemented his spot in the Indian Test side, scoring 974 runs at 57.29 in 11 Tests, including two double hundreds, a century and four 50s.
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) July 16, 2020
Kohli, who had previously played with Agarwal for Royal Challengers Bangalore, revealed it was the opener’s approach to the game that made him the first-choice replacement for Shaw, rather than the mountain of runs (2253 runs in 36 innings across formats) he had scored in the 2017/18 domestic season.
“For me, the biggest marker is how a person approaches playing the game,” Kohli said. “So, for example, when you opened and we made Vihari open with you. We had seen Viahri the way he played, he would come towards the ball, he was brave, he was sure of himself.
“The first opportunity presented to him to open, he said I am going to do it. That, to me, matters more than anything else because I opened in my first series for India, I had never opened in my life before that. I said yes to an opportunity and things worked out fine for me.
“So, a guy who wants to get into the difficult stuff and tough situations, they will come out either holding his head high or learning, there is no loss in that. So, that is what stood out. I had seen you play for RCB, even then you would play international bowlers with absolute conviction and take them on and everything. And you were performing well in first-class cricket for a while, in a dominating way.
“You should be able to be very positive about what you do and how you go about things, so that is something that always stood out with you, and obviously, when you have scored so many runs, it is a no-brainer. For an opener to come in at a time when there is a requirement, and you were the one who had scored the most amount of runs as well.
“But I would say your character stood out the more for me than the number of runs because I knew that you are going to come out and you are going to be fearless, play without baggage and do what the team wants you to do, without thinking what might happen.”
Agarwal scored 76, 42 and 77 respectively in the three innings that he played in his debut series in Australia.