In a time when the glamourous IPL seems like the only platform that makes fresh, upcoming cricketing talents household names, the selection of Abhimanyu Easwaran in the stand-bys for the forthcoming WTC final and the India tour of England is no less than reassuring. Rather, it would not be even wrong to say that his inclusion in the traveling squad is a testament to the fact that scoring buckets of runs in the country’s premier domestic tournament – the Ranji Trophy – is still worth its weight in gold.
Born in Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand, captain of Bengal at the age of 23, Easwaran has been rewarded for his steadfast performances and for what is already an illustrious career. Despite having a below-par Ranji season last time around, he can still boast off a hefty first-class average of 43.75 and an impressive tally of 4401 runs from 64 games that involve 13 tons, including two double centuries.
It was in the 2018-19 season when he wreaked havoc in the domestic scene as he smacked 861 runs in 6 matches at an average of 95.66 in the Ranji Trophy. He topped off the cricketing year with a 233 against Sri Lanka A and a match-winning 153 for India Red in the final of the Duleep Trophy. Alongside Pravanjan Mullick, Easwaran is the only other Indian to hold a unique record of twice scoring twin-tons in a match at a certain ground. At Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur, in the 2016-17 season, he scored 171 and 102* against UP and, in the 2017-18 season, at the same venue, he hit 129 and 114 against Gujarat.
The 25-year-old right-handed opener is an aesthetically pleasing batsman who plays with a high elbow, likes to present a full face of the bat, and has a solid textbook technique. No wonder, anyone who idolizes Rahul Dravid would want to have such attributes. However, often, he also gets labeled as merely a red-ball player, which is not entirely merited. He is, in fact, a very busy player with a tendency to keep the game moving with sharp ones and twos. Looking at his white-ball cricket stats reflects the same. In 62 List A games, he has gathered 2875 runs, including 6 centuries, at average in excess of 48, and a strike rate of nearly 83. Even in T20s, he has smacked a ton and scores at a rate of above 131.
A distinguished thing about Easwaran is his ability to carry on after reaching the three-figure mark. His maiden first-class century against Tamil Nadu in 2015 epitomizes this. In that game, he remained not out on 150. Moreover, he seems to cherish responsibility and big occasions. While he has scored bundles of runs, often those bundles have been of important runs. For instance, as mentioned above, he played a match-winning innings in the final of the 2019 Duleep Trophy. In the 2017 edition also, he struck 127 for India Blue, although he did not end on the winning side. In the 2018-19 season, he labored for more than seven hours, scored 201* versus Punjab, and rescued his team from what looked like a certain loss. That season only, we also saw an altogether different avatar of Easwaran when he scored a blistering knock of 183* off only 211 deliveries against Delhi as Bengal chased down a mammoth target of 322 on the last day. This inning speaks volumes about not only how often he comes clutch for his team, but also of his versatility.
Thus, the inclusion of a player like Abhimanyu Easwaran, who is still to play in the IPL, based on his Ranji Trophy output is significant not only for the player but also for the integrity of that tournament, especially in these modern times.
Sportz O’Clock sat down with Ranganathan Parameshwaran Easwaran, Abhimanyu’s father, who is a charted accountant but also runs an academy by the name of Abhimanyu Cricket Academy, to talk about his journey, his dream, and his preparations. We hope that knowing the struggle and the hard work that it takes to play domestic cricket would also help in implicitly illustrating the quality of India’s principal domestic competition.
Talking elatedly, like a proud father, Easwaran reminisced, “My son started playing cricket when he was 6 or 7 years old. Like any child picks up a bat, he also picked up a bat. We all know cricket in India is like a religion. But, with Abhimanyu, there was something different from the very beginning. He was so passionate about the game. Like, for instance, when he was in class 4th, he said, ‘I will not go to school.’ Like any other parent, I asked him why not. ‘After coming back from school around 3 pm and by practicing just for two to three hours, I cannot play for India,’ was his answer. A ten-year-old boy’s vision was so very clear, he knew he wanted to play for his country.”
When asked about what is that something different that he perceived in Abhimanyu, Easwaran, with certainty, replied that it was the reading of the game that came naturally to his son. He even reiterated an occurrence, “In 2005, he was batting in our academy nets against Piyush Chawla, and mind you he was not even 10 years old back then, but his reading of the game was such that he was able to theoretically unpack the mystery of Piyush’s bowling action, which he explained to me and his coach when we asked him how he was tackling Piyush’s bowling.”
Abhimanyu has openly talked about the importance of local cricket in shaping him as a person and player. Easwaran provided a sneak into his local cricket playing days and the level of his relentless determination, “It’s impossible to get him off the field. He has always been extremely dedicated to his game. When he was playing age-group cricket, I helped him in getting exposure wherever it was possible. He was constantly getting on flights and traveling between Nagpur, Delhi, and Calcutta to play local cricket.
“I can recall, I was talking to a friend when I stated that ‘my son will play for India.’ And I wasn’t boasting. We were always so focused. He was dedicated and I was behind him…Till 2012, I have recorded every innings of his, how he got out, and then we worked together to better his game. We didn’t leave any stone unturned,” he continued.
He also presented Sportz O’Clock with Abhimanyu’s batting stats between the years 2007 and 2012 which he, very meticulously, kept. Within those years, Abhimanyu played 377 matches and blasted a whopping 20,757 runs and 68 tons, at an astonishing average of 85.07
Abhimanyu, who was also in the stand-bys during the home series against England, gained much from that experience and feels he is in a good space now. Easwaran outlined how his son has been prepping for this potential challenge, “When he came back to Dehradun, I called his coaches, who always work with him: Apoorv Desai, Manoj Rawat, Sushil Jawale, and seven local bowlers to my academy, ACA. We have indoor and outdoor facilities. Before starting the training camp, I got them all tested for Covid-19.
“We simulated the English conditions. He batted for hours, at different times of the day. Apart from using the SG Test balls, we also used harder, cheaper, locally-made balls that swing more than the SG ones…He is in a good headspace, he’s playing well and middling the ball.”
“It’s a very long series, so you never know when you might get the chance,” said his hopeful father. And now, waiting to see how the much-awaited trip of England goes for the Indian team is all that is left for RP Easwaran and all of us to do.
Follow Saurabh Nagpal on Instagram @SportMelon_