Abhimanyu’s quest for perfection

cricket interview

Abhimanyu Easwaran slammed a century in the Duleep Trophy final in Bengaluru after scores of 0, 18 and 22 in his previous first-class innings. His last three List ‘A’ outings produced just six runs, including two ducks. On paper, he was a batsman desperate for a big knock.

“I don’t really look back at the past. I knew I was hitting the ball well and it was a matter of one good knock and it finally happened,” Abhimanyu had told reporters at the end of the day’s play.

Staying in the present is the biggest change in Abhimanyu’s mindset. Not too long ago, the right-handed opener was a different man. It bothered Abhimanyu a lot when he squandered good starts. He craved to play with a free mind and it was possible after a chat with former India captain and India ‘A’ coach Rahul Dravid.

“One important thing Rahul sir told me was about focusing on the present. I was not able to convert my starts. He told me to think about what I need to do 'now' and take one over at a time. It really helped me,” Abhimanyu told DH.

The 24-year-old has been the most promising batsman from Bengal in the last two years. Abhimanyu, who is set to lead his State in this season of domestic cricket, has made the India 'A' level. A sweet timer of the ball, Abhimanyu is blessed with a solid technique. While he isn’t afraid of being adventurous against the spinners, he is a calm customer against pacers, often dealing with them in boundaries.

Scoring on both sides of the wicket is something Abhimanyu has worked hard on. “I believe in keeping the basic right and then improving on the scoring areas. If you can increase your scoring areas, then the bowlers are under pressure. If you just score in one area, you get stuck. I believe in my defence. If I get a loose ball, I have enough areas to score,” he explained.

The 2018-19 edition of the Ranji Trophy was Abhimanyu’s breakthrough season. He piled up 861 runs at a staggering average of 95.66. His two big tons (186 and 183) and a double century (201) in the tournament is a reflection of his ability to plan his innings. Abhimanyu thanks legendary batsman V V S Laxman for guiding him on spending long time in the middle.

“Laxman sir spoke to me on how to plan my innings, what should be my scoring shots early in the innings. He told me to keep my shot selection simple early in my innings. I learnt that if I play the right shots then I will be in a better frame of mind irrespective of the nature of the wicket,” he offered.

While long innings requires immense focus, it also tests a batsman’s fitness. In this aspect, Abhimanyu looks up to Indian captain Virat Kohli. “People can see the difference in Virat Kohli ever since he started working on his fitness. I told myself that if he can make a big impact at the international with so much dedication for fitness then I can also bring a change in myself. Being fit did bring a positive change in my game. I continue to put in those hours for fitness regularly,” he said.

Right from his age-group days of cricket, Abhimanyu has been hungry for 100s. With Apoorva Desai, his personal coach, the youngster wants to continue his penchant for big knocks.

“I always wanted to score hundreds and win games for my team. Desai sir has been my coach ever since I made my Ranji debut six years ago. He focuses a lot on mastering different conditions and situations. For example, to handle pacers at the international level, he reduced the pitch length and made the bowlers bowl at me. So like this, he works on each aspect of the game,” said Abhimanyu, who has a first-class record of 3914 runs from 51 games at an average of 48.32.

With his consistency, Abhimanyu is making a strong case for himself to earn his India cap in the longer format. Earlier this year, he grabbed the attention with his 233-run knock for India ‘A’ against Sri Lanka ‘A’ in a four-day game. For someone who left home at the age of 11 to pursue his cricketing dreams, Abhimanyu’s discipline has been the catalyst to his success.

RP Easwaran, Abhimanyu’s father and a chartered accountant from Tamil Nadu, was a die-hard cricket lover. Having moved to Dehradun in the late 1960s, Easwaran dreamt of his son playing the game at the highest-level and felt Kolkata (then Calcutta) was the best option for his son to play the game.

 “I was born in Dehradun but moved to Calcutta alone at the age of 11. In Calcutta, cricket was everything to me. I would go to the ground every day and enjoy my game, work as hard as I can. Apart from cricket, I had a good bunch of friends and nothing else. So cricket was everything,” he recollects.

His single-minded approach has now got him the captaincy of the Bengal senior team in domestic cricket.

“My father was sure about shifting me to a different State for cricket but my mother was worried and not confident of the idea. Today, she is very proud of me,” he adds.

Despite the competition to make the Indian team, Abhimanyu believes that this is the best time to be an opener in India. And the competition is only healthy, with players sharing their experiences of playing in the national team, says Abhimanyu.

“When Mayank (Agarwal) recently came back from Australia, he spoke to me about his experience and what were the challenges he faced playing Australia in Australia. He spoke on the challenges of playing Test cricket and the difference in playing international cricket outside the country,” he says.

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