Abhimanyu Easwaran has been a mainstay of the Bengal state team since making his Ranji Trophy debut in 2013.
As an opening batsman, he has scored many runs for Bengal to lead them to many famous victories. He was the leading scorer for the state team in the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy season and he also captained the side as they reached the final of the 2019-20 season.
Father & Son
His hard work paid off when he was called up in January 2021 as a stand-by player for India in the home Test series against England. And he has further reason to celebrate when he joins the Indian squad for his first international tour, having been called up as a stand-by player for the final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand and India’s away series against England.
Here he speaks about his recent successes.
Does it feel like 2021 is your year? The year you will break into the India team?
Yes, it has been a really good year so far. I just want to step closer to the dream of playing for the country. My dad, mom and sister have been very supportive and everyone’s happy about the selection. They are excited about the tour.
Were you expecting the call-up? And what were you doing in preparation?
Yes, I was kind of expecting this because I was in the stand-by team in the home series against England. I expected that since I was there, I would be here too. Considering what happened in Australia, I was expecting that they’ll be looking for a few extra batsmen as reserves for the England tour.
In the days leading up to the announcement, I was training at the academy in Dehradun (Abhimanyu Cricket Academy, run by his father). The training’s been a constant. I’ve been playing a lot of white-ball cricket and not so much red-ball cricket. So I’ve been trying to work on that and get back to red-ball cricket. We try to simulate the conditions by starting a bit early in the morning on a wicket that is supporting fast bowlers. I’m just trying to challenge myself and trying to train in those conditions, getting my discipline back for red-ball cricket. So I’m just focussing on that and trying to do the best I can.
Which do you enjoy more – white ball or red ball cricket?
I do enjoy all the formats. But if I had to choose one, it would be Test cricket. It’s a real test for any cricketer. I’m not saying that T20 or ODIs are not testing, but Test would definitely be my preference.
I guess it is important for every player to adjust and adapt according to the format nowadays, considering the amount of cricket we are playing. You complete a tournament with a red ball and after a couple of days, you are again playing with a white ball. So that adjustment is very important for every cricketer. I think I have been doing it well over the past few years.
Unlike other young players, you didn’t have the franchise cricket route to the national team. How do you reflect on that?
Playing for the country is a dream come true. It doesn’t really matter what route you take; it is all about getting there. I tried to score as many runs as I can and win as many games as I can for Bengal. I also tried to win the Duleep Trophy and Deodhar Trophy. But I’ve always been thinking about getting called for team India. I would be really happy to be a part of a franchise team; unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet. But to get close to my dream, the route doesn’t matter. It is just about reaching there, and I think I’ve come really close to playing for the country.
What did you learn while captaining Bengal in the Ranji Trophy?
I was the captain last year. I think it was a great experience for me, leading my state for the first time at the senior level. I learnt a lot about myself as a player. Because when you’re not captain, you’re not thinking about those things. When you’re captain, you think about a lot of other things as well. Things outside the ground, like team selection. As a captain, I think there’s a lot of things to do but I enjoy it.
I got to work on a lot of additional qualities. I got to learn about leadership and man management skills. I tried to look at things from a different angle, which I wasn’t looking at when I was just a player in the team. I think those things were a little different and I learnt a lot. It hasn’t really changed my approach to the game, because as a batsman, my job is to score runs and play the role my team requires.
You were also picked for England’s tour of India in January 2021. What did you learn while you were part of the Indian squad then?
There were a few things. We had only heard that the Indian team has a great intensity while practising. So just to be able to see that and be in that environment was great. The players are pretty specific about what they want to work on before a game, and their game plans were pretty clear about what they wanted to do in the game.
I remember watching the team as we lost the first game at home in the Test series against England; it was a very important match for us to win in our hope to qualify for the World Test Championship. But to watch the team come back from that and win, it showed the mental strength of the team and the determination they had to make it to the World Test Championship finals. I think those were the learnings from being with the squad.
You now have a chance to be with the team for an extended time on a tour. What do you hope to improve on while in England?
It is just about being with the team and learning how they prepare for a Test match in England. There are a few guys who played about two-three series in England. I think just to learn how they prepare for it and understand their game plans [will be important for me]. How they plan against specific bowlers and how they read the conditions in England, those are things I want to learn so I can improve on those aspects as a player once I’m back in India.
Your talent was spotted when you played Red Bull Campus Cricket in 2016 and 2017. What do you remember of your experiences in the tournament?
Nowadays, there isn’t much school cricket or college cricket in most places. But Red Bull organised it pretty well and the exposure we got was amazing. First you play state, and then zonal, and then after becoming national champion, you play against other countries. That gives you a lot of exposure and you get to travel a lot. It gave me a chance to learn a lot of things really, and Red Bull Campus Cricket has been a really good experience. It has helped me in my journey so far and it's been great.
Have you followed any other players from Red Bull Campus Cricket who you expect to have successful careers?
I think Shahrukh Khan, I had seen him playing in Red Bull Campus Cricket, and now he’s with the Punjab franchise [playing under KL Rahul, who also played Red Bull Campus Cricket]. It is great to have such players come up and do the job for their team in big tournaments.