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Abhimanyu Easwaran: ‘Selection is something which isn’t in my hands’

Abhimanyu Easwaran shows dedication towards his dream.

Since the resumption of the Ranji Trophy after the Covid break during the 2021/22 season, Abhimanyu Easwaran has been a pillar for Bengal cricket. During the penultimate Ranji season in 2022/23, Easwaran was the seventh-highest run-getter of the tournament with 798 runs in eight innings. His average of 66.50 at a strike rate of 60.36 with three centuries and as many as fifties snatched the attention. 

 

The right-hand batter ended the recent Ranji season in 2023/24 with 337 runs in three innings. After being unavailable for most of the tournament, he wrapped up the competition with a home double-century against Bihar.  

 

Easwaran promises to do the hard work until the opportunity arrives.
©- TOI Sports/ Twitter
Easwaran finds himself between a rock and a hard place

 

These truck-loaded runs have brought him to the periphery of the Indian team for the last three seasons. During the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) 2019-2021 against New Zealand, Easwaran was one of the four standby players. 

 

Even after being a prolific run-getter for Bengal, and India-A, the 28-year-old finds himself in a tricky situation. When the India squad was declared for the West Indies tour in 2023, Easwaran found both young Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ruturaj Gaikwad leapfrogging him. 

 

In an exclusive interview with News Shot 24, he opened up about these challenges, his on-field and off-field preparations, the importance of fitness, the significance of A-tours, and many other things. 

 

You had a fantastic season in 2022/23, and you just backed it with another good season in 2023/24. Bengal didn’t qualify for the quarter-finals, but how do you see the last two years from a personal point of view?
 

 I think last season, if you talk about the season where we qualified, and lost the final, it was a decent season for me as a batter. But again, it wasn’t the best season I would say, because we didn’t win the finals. That’s always a dream. In a team sport, you always want to win the trophy. We were pretty close, but we didn’t play well in the final. I didn’t make a big score, so that was a big disappointment too, missing out when you were so close to winning it. 

 

And in this season, I wasn’t available for most of the par. I just played two games, made decent contributions to my team, and finished on a good note. But again, we didn’t qualify. So, it happens. Our team has been doing so well for the past two seasons- probably three seasons. We played two finals. This season, things didn’t work out for us. It happens to a team, but I think we will come back strong next season. 

 

Let me take you a little back. Your father has a huge contribution to your life. Can you just share something on that?

 

I think, I am very lucky to have a family like that, who supported me from day one. And, actually, my dad is somebody who took the initiative when I was really young, and I had no knowledge about how to play cricket, and where to go. Uttarakhand got its affiliation from the BCCI in 2018. So, I had to move to some other state. So, my dad looked out for all these states and decided Bengal. 

 

I think I was nine years old when I went to Bengal. He felt the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) had a really good system. They had a lot of leagues for the junior cricketers- U-14, U-17. They had the second division and first division, and it was a really good system. 

 

So, I think dad has taken all the decisions for me when I was really young. Obviously, my mom and sister supported me throughout. They are always been there whenever I need them. I think I am blessed to have people like them in my life. My dad is somebody who discusses cricket with me every day. Probably he is my biggest supporter, and my biggest critique as well. I will be the first one if I don’t play well to comment something on my performance. But I think he is been the pillar for me. I’m very lucky and blessed to have my family.

 

What’s your on-field preparation? What do you do in leading up to a first-class game?
 

I feel mainly the preparations are done before the season. During the season, we hardly get time, because it’s usually a three to four-day break, where we are traveling to the venue. Usually have a day’s break, travel, and then we have a session or two max. So, you just have enough time to get used to the pitches, and conditions, you look at the stats, you know about the venue. As much as you know the venue, you can prepare yourself. 

 

But the actual preparations happen in the pre-season. You kind of figure out what’s your game, where are the things you need to work on, what are your strengths, the areas you need to work on. You look for different shots, you try to improve as a cricketer, you work on your fitness, you work on your mental game. 

 

But I think once the season begins, it’s mostly about just getting used to the pitch conditions. Then you make a certain plan as to how I am going about my game, and what are the plans to put my team in the winning position. And you try to keep it as simple as possible.  

 

Easwaran spoke about the importance of A-tours and Ranji season.
©- Cricbuzz/ Twitter

 

What about your off-field preparations? Like how did you get the concentration back from that long COVID break? Wasn’t it tough? 

 

I think it’s about getting mentally prepared even during the practice sessions. I work on that aspect as well. We don’t just practice physically, but it’s about mental practice as well. Suppose you are in the nets, and you always think about how could I score runs on that particular pitch on that day against the bowlers you are facing. So, you try and work on that mentally also. 

 

I try and do my routines in between the balls which I do in my game. I try and target or find match stimulations. I have a purpose for every single session which helps me get prepared mentally. I feel being physically prepared and mentally prepared is equally important, but if I had to choose one, I would say if I am mentally more prepared for that game, I would do well. 

 

I think that the mental part is more important at times. Because physically, we play so much cricket throughout the season that you tend to get tired. Yes, you are trained for that. But there are games when the temperatures are so high, and then traveling. You play a long innings, and then field, and then again bat. So, this is where your physical strength that you have built up during the off-season, and your mental preparations where you pushed yourself come into play. So, I feel both the aspects are really important. 

 

You were one of the seven members from India to be part of the Dhaka Premier League along with Chirag Jani, Baba Aparajith, and Hanuma Vihari. Any technical aspects that you learned there?

 

Obviously, the conditions were similar. I was lucky enough to be part of a club called ‘Prime Bank.’ They gave me a really good opportunity, and I got to play against a lot of international cricketers. The conditions were similar, but definitely, you play in different venues, which are international venues as well. 

 

We played in Mirpur, where India plays a lot of games when they go there. So, that was another opportunity for me to get used to the conditions. And about technical aspects? Obviously, I played with those guys who score a lot of runs there. So, a little adjustment from here and there helped me. It was a great experience with a lot of learnings to play along and play against a lot of international cricketers. 

 

In those past days, if you used to score runs in domestic cricket, you would get a direct chance in the Indian team. Then came the ‘A-tours.’ Now, it’s the IPL. What’s the significance of A-tours in your view?

 

I feel the A-tours are very important for a cricketer. For somebody who wants to play for the country, it’s more like a bridge between domestic cricket and international cricket. Mainly because you are playing against a lot of international cricketers, and you are playing in those conditions where you are going to play Test cricket if you get selected. 

 

Suppose I have toured New Zealand, or England, or South Africa twice. Somebody who has toured these countries so many times, and gets an opportunity to play for the country in those conditions, will have a better chance to perform. 

 

I feel it’s a great initiative by BCCI to have these A-tours, and I have been lucky to be part of a few of them. 

 
Which of these conditions do you think are challenging?
 

I feel every place had a different challenge. But if I had to pick one, I would say it’s probably England. 

 

You have almost 1000 T20 runs at a strike rate of around 130. That’s a decent record to have. Do you think because of your one format excellence, you miss out on an IPL gig?

 

I think the selection isn’t in my hands. So, I don’t really think much about it. If I had to get picked, I would. I think it’s just about improving as a cricketer and making sure I can win as many games in different formats for my team. 

 

This year I made a decent contribution (248 runs in seven innings at a strike rate of 155) for Bengal in the (Syed) Mushtaq Ali Trophy. But unfortunately, we didn’t go on to win the trophy. We lost in the pre-quarterfinals this year, but I make sure I will do well next year, improve as a cricketer, and make more runs in T20s. 

 

You never know when the opportunities come. I just want to be prepared for whatever opportunities arise. So, not really thinking too much about it (IPL contract). 

 

I (would) love to play the Indian Premier League, because I feel it’s the best league in the world. So, that’s something I’m really looking forward to. 

 

Weren’t you invited to the Delhi Capitals camp?

 

Yes, I was (during IPL 2023). 

 

Did you meet Ricky Ponting, and anyone else?

 

Yeah, I did. 

 

Any insights you want to share with us?

 

I was there with the team for two days. So, I saw how the guys were preparing. What sort of specific preparations each individual had!! I saw (David) Warner preparing, I saw Mitchell Marsh preparing, and I was lucky to be around them for two days. So, yeah really good experience. 

 

The world knows Virat Kohli is the brand ambassador of fitness, with a high benchmark. Apart from your on-field and off-field preparations, how vital fitness is for you? 

 

Fitness is very important as a cricketer, these days. You see, the amount of cricket is coming up for every individual even in domestic cricket. If you play international cricket, the amount of games you play throughout the year is a lot. We travel a lot. So, it’s important to be as fit as you can. I really work hard on my fitness along with a lot of gym sessions, or running sessions, or long practice sessions which I really enjoy. 

 

I play a lot of games. Recovery is a big factor in your fitness. How quickly you can recover. Suppose, you play a five-day game, then another Test match after three days, it’s about recovery. Virat bhaiyya has obviously inspired a lot of guys to work hard on their fitness, and we have seen the results of that. You see him score runs continuously, because he has got the game, and he is so fit. Even if he is batting on a hundred, he will run the first one hard, and make sure if there is an opportunity to get the second, he will go for it. 

 

It’s really inspiring, and I have been pushing myself to be the fittest version of myself. Still on that path, but I make sure I keep working hard. 

 

You were part of that 2021 Lord’s Test victory. India made a fabulous comeback on the last day. Any dressing room memory you want to share with us?

 

I think that was one of the special days I had on the field. Even though I wasn’t part of the XI, I still get goosebumps when I think of that game. We were pretty behind in that game, and then that partnership from (Jasprit) Bumrah and (Mohammad) Shami bhai in the second innings just changed the momentum of the game. The way that partnership inspired the team, and the way Virat (Kohli) bhai led the team (was fantastic). 

 

Our bowlers were tremendous. To get 10 wickets in around 60 overs (51.5 overs) was amazing. To beat England in their home was a great feeling. A lot of emotions (were) there because we knew winning a series overseas was obviously a dream. To beat England is something you would love to do as an Indian cricketer. There were a lot of superstitions going on in the dressing room when the partnership was happening. Especially people weren’t changing their seats. It was one of the best moments I had on the cricket field. 

 

 

Many cricketers have admitted that when they are so close to the India call, they push a little harder. That, in a way, hamper their preparations. You were so close to getting selected for the West Indies tour but unfortunately missed out. Do you think these things frustrate you? How did you collect motivations from then?

 

I think it can get challenging at times, but it’s about working hard on yourself because selection is something that isn’t in my hands. So, I take it that way. Suppose, I am not selected, then I have to score more runs to get picked. How can I score more runs? Getting fitter, getting more runs in every game I play, and making sure I win games and tournaments for my team. That’s something that keeps me going. 

 

Once you start playing cricket, playing for the country is always a dream. That has always been my dream, and I hope that happens soon. But till then, I make sure of getting better as a cricketer and using the opportunities when I get it. 

That Mad Writer
Author: That Mad Writer

Someone who loves how Steve Smith from being Australia's future Shane Warne has become present Don Bradman, gets inspired by Anderson's longevity, gets awed with Kohli's drive and Southee's bowling action. Never gets excited with stats and records, and believes in instincts, and always questions spinners bowling with the new ball.

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