Abhimanyu Easwaran gears up for another domestic season in search of elusive India debut

The right-handed opener, who originally hails from Dehradun, was a stand by for the national team for the home and away series against England as well as the World Test Championship (WTC) final in 2021.

Published : Jun 27, 2023 14:28 IST , CHENNAI - 8 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: Easwaran said that A tours help players adapt to different conditions and high quality bowlers.
FILE PHOTO: Easwaran said that A tours help players adapt to different conditions and high quality bowlers. | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

FILE PHOTO: Easwaran said that A tours help players adapt to different conditions and high quality bowlers. | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

Abhimanyu Easwaran is back to the grind for another domestic cricket season as the 27-year-old from Bengal is set to lead the East Zone side in the Duleep Trophy, which is being held in Bengaluru from June 28 to July 16.

The right-handed opener, who originally hails from Dehradun, was a stand by for the national team for the home and away series against England as well as the World Test Championship (WTC) final in 2021. After impressive performances for the A team, he was added to the senior squad as replacement for captain Rohit Sharma, who was injured, for the Bangladesh tour last year.

He scored four consecutive centuries last year (two each for Bengal and India A) and ended the Ranji Trophy season with 798 runs in eight games at an average of 66.50.

After the East Zone team’s first practice session on Monday, Easwaran spoke about his experience with the national team, his plans for the upcoming domestic season, team selection, playing at a stadium named after him, and more.

There were talks of Ishan Kishan being the East Zone captain for the Duleep Trophy before he made himself unavailable for selection and eventually, you got the leadership role. You have led your State team in the past but how different is this challenge of captaining a side with players from other states?

I’ve had a similar challenge before when I led India A because players come from different states. It’s just about getting to know each other more and just supporting each other because we mostly played against each other. But here, we are playing for the East zone. It’s just about thinking more about the team than individuals. That’s the chat we had today. Everybody has done so well to get here. It’s just about understanding what the team needs from them and just trying to keep the team in mind. That’s the only challenge.

You have twice been a standby for the national team and also been a part of the squad. But the recently announced squads for the West Indies tour didn’t mention your name anywhere. Has there been any communication from the selectors whether there’s something they want you to work on?

No, I have not had any communication so far.

Do you think you need to push the bar a little more?

That is there, irrespective of whether I get picked or not. I want to get better as a cricketer. I want to raise the bar every single day and get better. Selection is something which is not in my hands but improving every day is something I can work on to contribute more to my team, whichever team I play for, be it club, state, India A, East Zone or the Indian team. The thought process has always been that, I just want to focus on that. I just don’t want to give up. I just want to keep focusing on getting better.

There were a lot of A tours before the COVID-19 pandemic but after that, the number of those games have reduced. The current senior team has many members who benefitted from A tours as it helped them adapt quickly when promoted to the national side. Do you think you need more of these A games once again?

The A games are a really good concept because you’re obviously facing a lot of international and (high) quality bowlers. But more than that, you’re playing in different conditions. As you said, a lot of guys who played for the India A team have been accustomed to the conditions overseas. That always gives them an edge if they’re going there for the second time. They are better prepared. It’s really great to have A tours and as a cricketer, you would always want more A tours because you know that’s going to help you improve as a cricketer. It’s great that we had a lot of A tours before the pandemic and as cricketers, we would always want as many A tours as possible.

As a modern cricketer, do you think you need to perform in all formats and are selectors probably looking for players who can adapt according to the situation irrespective of the format they are picking the team for?

In Test cricket, there was a time when there were a lot of draws happening but now every team is trying to win. There are situations where you need to change gears and push it when your teams need it but selection and wanting a player to be good in all formats is something I cannot comment on. Since the game is changing every single day, the way cricket is being played, obviously it’s great to have players who can change according to conditions, situations and what the team needs. If somebody’s got runs in first-class cricket, they have experienced a lot of situations similar to that and they have done it for their teams and that’s the reason they are successful. If the selectors are looking at a three-format player, I’m nobody to comment on it.

You’ve been a part of the senior squad even if you didn’t get to play a match. What did you learn from that experience of being with the national side and coach Rahul Dravid?

It was a great experience being part of the Indian cricket team because that’s been my dream to play for the country. It’s like getting a step closer to realizing your dream. I had a really good time. I learned a lot, had a lot of chats but if I had to pick one thing, it would be how specific guys are with their preparations and everybody has different game plans. They’re very clear about it. I could actually see them preparing in different ways because everybody has their own way of scoring runs. And when they got runs in the games, I was actually there to see what sort of preparations they’ve done and repeating the same things in the game and being successful.

Can you give an example of such specific preparation?

If I had to pick one, it would be Rohit Sharma. He worked a lot on being disciplined around the top of off-stump line during the England series (2021 away tour) and we could see him leaving the ball really well. He was very disciplined. As we know, he has got every shot in the book. So, for him to be leaving the ball so well and defending around the off stump was the key and he worked a lot on that and I could see him doing that in the game against (James) Anderson and (Stuart) Broad. He got runs on that tour and It was really good to watch.

Have you set any targets for the upcoming domestic season? Are you trying to add new shots to your game?

I have a few things in mind and I was working on them during the club games as well. You work on a technique and a few shots. I’ll keep doing that and I hope things go well this season. Like whatever I prepare for comes through really nicely. Just trying to increase my range of shots. It will help me because I will have more areas to score runs in.

Last season, you played a Ranji Trophy game in Dehradun at a ground named after you (Abhimanyu Cricket Academy Stadium) and built by your father Ranganathan Parameswaran Easwaran. Tell me about your father’s role in your cricketing journey.

He’s had a major role. He is very passionate about the game, just like me, and he could see that there weren’t too many good facilities in Dehradun. There were hardly any turf wickets when I was growing up. He had in mind that I had to shift my state because Uttarakhand did not have affiliation at that point. I had to go to some other state to play state cricket. He wanted to make a place where the local boys and boys from other parts of the country as well can come and practice and they get enough facilities at one place to improve their game and get better. It was a great feeling playing at that ground because I’ve practiced a lot there as a kid. Unfortunately, I hardly get time to go to Dehradun. It’s about 25-30 days a year where I go to Dehradun and work on my game but whenever I go there, it’s a great feeling and I really enjoy it because I have my family there. And again, I can just practice. My dad’s been my biggest supporter and the biggest cricket critic as well.

How did you choose to represent Bengal in the Ranji Trophy?

I was 10 years old and wanted to play cricket. My dad used to take me to different places to play. I played in Delhi. I played in Nagpur. In Delhi, somebody suggested to my dad that you can go to Calcutta because the Cricket Association of Bengal had a really good system where they had association tournaments for Under-14 and Under-16 boys. The selections were made from those tournaments. I wouldn’t compare it to other states but they had a really good system. My dad felt it was really nice and I shifted to Calcutta when I was 10 and since then, I’ve been there and I’ve played all my cricket for Bengal.

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