Abhimanyu Easwaran: With an eye on Test opener’s slot, Bengal captain making all the right noises - Exclusive Interview
Easwaran’s first two of three boundaries on Day 2 of the Duleep Trophy final were straight down the ground, a few metres to the left of the bowler, a few to the right of the mid-off fielder, more importantly, in the direction of two of India’s national selectors present in the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Abhimanyu Easwaran had just landed in Antigua. The first unofficial test against West Indies A was a couple of days away but a part of him was in Mumbai. India’s selectors were about to meet in the BCCI headquarters to announce squads for the West Indies tour and Easwaran knew he had a chance – albeit a slender one. The five wise men and captain Virat Kohli, however, refrained from experiments, meaning Easwaran had to wait. Whether Easwaran’s name was discussed or not is debatable, that he is knocking on the doors – each of it more prominent, forceful than the previous one – is not. A month and a half later, Easwaran was not ready to take a chance. He wanted the selectors to take note, he wanted to stare in their eyes and say ‘I am ready’.
Easwaran’s first two of three boundaries on Day 2 of the Duleep Trophy final were straight down the ground, a few metres to the left of the bowler, a few to the right of the mid-off fielder, more importantly, in the direction of two of India’s national selectors present in the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. “Yes, I knew they were here. They were sitting right beside the dressing room,” Easwaran told Hindustan Times in an exclusive chat at the end of the day’s play.
With KL Rahul losing steam and Prithvi Shaw out with a doping ban, a Test opener is on top of the selector’s agenda and Easwaran just pressed the right button at the right time, or so it seems. The 23-year old’s stroke-filled 102* put India Red in the driver’s seat against India Green.
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“Yes I’m ready for Test cricket,” said Easwaran. “Just want to get those runs, want to make sure I make full use of whatever opportunities I get. If the chance comes, I’m ready… I would really enjoy playing for India if I get a chance but honestly, I don’t think about selection much.”
Easwaran, whose average has never dipped below 40 in each of the five domestic seasons (since 2015), was drafted into the India A after a prolific Ranji Trophy 2018-19, in which he scored 861 runs in 6 matches with an average of 95.65.
The past few weeks, however, have been a mixed bag for the Uttarakhand-born opener. He registered two ducks in his last 5 innings but was also appointed Bengal captain for the upcoming Ranji Trophy around the same time. “No, I was not under any sort of pressure. I knew a big score was just around the corner,” Easwaran said.
Easwaran was right. Positive intent, assertive footwork, precision in shot-making, he was a cut above the rest on Thursday. “There was some help for the bowlers with the new ball but it became slower as the day progressed. As we had bowled first on that wicket, I knew how to apply myself. Once the ball got old it was up to me to score.”
He was calculative in his scoring too. After seeing off the new ball with an intent that took the Ankit Rajpoot-led India Green pace battery by surprise, Easwaran targeted their next best bowler – left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, hitting him for a six over mid-wicket in only his second over. A few overs later, Easwaran would get the same result with a better shot over long-off from leg-spinner Mayank Markande.
Easwaran credited his positive mindset to the experience gathered playing for India A. “When you play at the A level it always helps. You always feel confident about your game. First class games are always tough but when you play a level higher, you come back as an improved cricketer.”
Intent was not the only thing Easwaran improved because of his stints with India A. Concentration, converting the starts into big ones are the biggest takeaways for the right-hander. “I was getting 50s and 60s even for India A but wasn’t able to convert the starts. Then I spent time with Rahul Dravid sir on the A tours and he told me to forget about the score and just focus on the job in hand. He didn’t talk much about the technicalities, he always stressed on the mental aspect,” Easwaran added.
India Red went to stumps at 175 for 2, trailing the Greens by 56 runs and Easwaran knew his job was not finished.
“Getting a hundred in Duleep Trophy is always special. But we’ve still got a job in our hands. First, we need to get the first innings lead and then carry on from there.”