Abhimanyu Easwaran: 'Leading Bengal is an honour'

Bengal and India A batsman Abhimanyu talks cricket in Kolkata, captaincy and the lessons learnt from Rahul Dravid.

Abhimanyu Easwaran is not only scoring runs across formats, he is changing mindsets.   -  Sudhakara Jain

When remembering cricket glories, Bengal still relies on Sourav Ganguly tales. Stumper Wriddhiman Saha dives like an Olympian and adopted child Mohammed Shami is a lethal fast bowler but there has been no Test batsman since Dada.

Newly-crowned Bengal captain Abhimanyu Easwaran is perhaps on the right track. He is not only scoring runs across formats, he is changing mindsets; the 322-run chase against Delhi in Ranji Trophy 2018-19 is a blueprint. Living away from home toughened the Dehradun-born cricketer and today, he is more of a Ballygunge boy — glowing in a prosperous south Kolkata neighbourhood.

Sportstar caught up with the 24-year-old talented batsman to discuss the upcoming domestic season and the cricket culture in the football-mad city that brought him down from the foothills.

Excerpts...

Six years ago, when you made your first-class debut, nobody would have thought of you as the future skipper. Tell us about your journey in Bengal...
 

I first came to Kolkata with my father when I was 11. I stayed in Bangaon with my coach Nirmalya Sengupta. I used to play local tournaments. I played a lot of local tournaments and then, I got selected in U-16, U-19 and finally, Ranji Trophy for Bengal. It has been a great journey and I have enjoyed every bit of it. It has been a good challenge. There have been ups and downs but wearing the Bengal jersey is a great honour for me. I am really proud of it and leading the state is a bigger honour.

You are more of a Kolkata boy now. How often do you go home to meet parents?
 

I have come home for three days now since I barely get time with my family. When I have a break, I try and spend time with my parents, which is also important.

Abhimanyu Easwaran scored a century in the final of the Duleep Trophy, in Bengaluru last week.   -  Sudhakara Jain



Being the captain of Bengal may require you to stay longer in Kolkata, probably for meetings and planning...

I want to take responsibility and do well. I will hopefully enjoy this responsibility and take the team forward. If my new role requires me to stay longer in Kolkata, I will do that. I haven’t been able to follow football in the city that much, I hope to follow Calcutta Football League a bit from now on.

Not many Bengal cricketers have stood out as Test batsmen for Team India after Ganguly. You have a slender chance. Where do you see yourself in a few years?
 

I am just trying to focus and do well in the matches I get to play. If I play for Bengal and do well in Ranji or perform in Duleep Trophy, that is good for me. Selection is not in my control, not in my hands. If I keep performing in every single game, I think selection will take care of itself.

How is the club cricket structure in Kolkata? How much did it help your game?
 

Club cricket has really helped me because I got to play a lot of games in different formats. Now with the Super League happening, the standard has really gone up. All top class Bengal players come and play in the league. For me, it has been of great help shaping me as a person and a cricketer. I have faced a lot of crunch situations while batting in domestic cricket and in India A, but it was easy for me because I had faced those situations in club cricket earlier.

Most club games are two-day games now. Does that cut-short the preparation?
 

If you play a lot of games, it will help you the most [irrespective of the days]. It is the most important thing for a player when he is young. The standard is high and the grounds are big. The matches are getting us results as some of the best players are in the mix. I also get to practise at my club [Kalighat Club] facilities.

Most India A players have a favourite Rahul Dravid lesson, what’s yours?
 

Rahul Dravid has been my idol ever since I started playing cricket. There have been many lessons but the most important thing that I learnt is to try and stay in my present. I was having problems with my conversion rate and I had spoken to him. I needed to get a big score and there was too much on my mind. Rahul sir had told me not to think of scores and focus on what the team needed from me at that point of time, and he told me to just keep batting and that I will eventually get the big score. It helped me a lot mentally.

How do you prepare before a game?

 

It depends on the opposition and also the nature of the wicket which we get to see two days before the game to understand how it will behave. So you prepare accordingly, study the bowlers and plan according to the format you are playing.

You also have a Sourav Ganguly on top of your head in the Cricket Association of Bengal. How much of support do you get from him?
 

He always keeps me motivated. He wants me to perform in every single tournament. He gives me a lot of confidence which is a big thing for me as it is coming from someone like Sourav sir.

Though you did not get runs in the A tour of West Indies, it must have been a great learning curve. What did you gain from the series?
 

It was a good experience playing with the Dukes ball in those conditions. I really enjoyed the challenge; understood a lot of things from those challenges. If I go again, I will be better prepared.

When are you expected to join the Bengal side? The Vijay Hazare Trophy starts September 24…
 

The team is playing practice games in Jaipur at the moment. I will be playing the second unofficial Test against South Africa A from September 17 to 20. Wriddhiman Saha and I will join the state team by September 21.

Abhimanyu Easwaran statbox

First-class: 52
Runs: 4,067
100s: 13
50s: 17
Batting average: 49.59
HS: 233

List A: 49
Runs: 2,365
100s: 5
50s:15
Batting average: 50.31
HS: 149

T20: 12
Runs: 337
100s: 1
50s: 1
Batting average: 37.44
HS: 107*