Abhimanyu Easwaran (R) and Virat Kohli (L) at a Chennai hotel during the home series against England [Credits: Abhimanyu Easwaran]

Virat Kohli's Team India: Through the eyes of Abhimanyu Easwaran [Exclusive]

Srinjoy Sanyal
FEATURED WRITER

Virat Kohli is Virat Kohli today because of the garland of records he has strung together over the past 14 years. But Virat Kohli has become who he is because of the hard yards he has put in every single day for the past so many years.

Bengal batsman Abhimanyu Easwaran got the first-hand experience of this wonderful fusion of talent and hard work when he stayed in the Indian team’s bio-bubble for the four home Tests against England earlier this year. The 25-year-old will get another chance to draw inspiration from the Indian captain in the forthcoming months.

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Abhimanyu Easwaran has been picked as one of four standby players traveling with a 20-member India squad for WTC finals against New Zealand starting June 18 as per WTC final schedule and the ensuing five-Test series against England in July-August.

Abhimanyu Easwaran didn’t earn the coveted India cap, but he certainly learnt how to keep improving at his craft and what makes a champion cricketer – all from the ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade Virat Kohi. In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Abhimanyu Easwaran opened up on how Virat Kohli leads by example, both on and off the field.

“We only see him on the TV, playing international cricket. But it’s not just what he does on those days, it’s about what he does before that as well, how he prepares for the games – he’s very particular about the practice sessions, you won’t see him just being casual at practice even for one ball, even when he’s fielding you will see that intensity. He used to actually do preparations for every guy, if he wanted something specific from them and how they could prepare for the Test match. All these were really great to see,” Abhimanyu Easwaran said.

As MS Dhoni has repeatedly mentioned, cricket is more of a mental game than a physical. Having the ability to outthink the opponent without wilting even in the face of adversity counts for far more than having the gift of timing or being able to bowl at 150 kmph.

Abhimanyu Easwaran spotted only strong-headed individuals in the Indian dressing room. Highlighting the positivity and self-belief that everyone oozed, he lauded the team’s remarkable comeback from going 0-1 down in the first Test in Chennai to eventually winning the series 3-1.

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“The mindset of the Indian cricket team is pretty amazing at the moment. Because losing the first Test match against England at home was a big thing, everybody was little sad about it, there was anger in everybody because we lost at home. But everybody was trying to win the series and they were pretty confident they would do it.
“So that belief was there, and just to see that belief in all the players and the support staff was great to see and the way we played in the next three Test matches shows what makes a champion team – even if they lose the first Test, it doesn’t really matter, how they come back is more important,” Abhimanyu Easwaran explained.

It is then safe to assume that Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni’s heir, is carrying the legacy forward in the right spirit. For the record, Kohli has already become India’s most successful Test captain, having won 36 out of 60 matches, bettering Dhoni’s tally of 27 triumphs.

There’s another personality who has been immense in delivering two Border-Gavaskar Trophies on Australian soil (2018/19 and 2020/21), keeping the Test side at the No. 1 spot for 43 odd months and getting them close to winning series in England and South Africa.

While he has drawn flak for not sealing an ICC tournament yet, Ravi Shastri’s precedence cannot be devalued by any means.

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Abhimanyu Easwaran credited the head coach for instilling confidence and belief in the players. The Bengals opener added that net sessions with Shastri standing behind him and throwing words of wisdom and motivation at him did him a lot of good.

“He kept the positivity intact in the dressing room. We lost the first Test and still when we came for practice the next day, he made sure everyone was feeling good and that positivity could be seen in everyone. He always keeps motivating the players, makes sure everybody stays positive.
“Anyone who comes to the nets, he will just chat with you for a couple of minutes that motivates you a lot. So for guys like us who were part of the Indian team for the first time, that really boosted our confidence,” Abhimanyu Easwaran stated.

Ask any member of India’s winning team Down Under, and they will speak highly of Ravi Shastri’s role in keeping the mood in the camp always upbeat. He helps the players believe in themselves, which eventually saw them traverse the journey from the Adelaide humiliation to the Gabba jubilation.


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UK in UK: Abhimanyu Easwaran practising in UK-esque conditions in Uttarakhand

Abhimanyu Easwaran in action for India A vs New Zealand A in January 2020

Abhimanyu Easwaran will now get another opportunity to be among the cream of the crop, to take involuntary lessons on cricket and life from them. But this time around, he is also aware of the standards that the national side has set for its players.

Abhimanyu Easwaran is traveling to the UK as a standby batsman, knowing he won’t get a game unless a spate of injuries rock the Indian team again against the NZ squad for WTC final. The Bengal opener has moved back to his hometown of Dehradun and is currently training at his father’s academy, in conditions maneuvred to resemble what the Indian team will face in England. All this because, deep down, Virat Kohli’s ethos and principles might have flicked some switch in Abhimanyu Easwaran’s head.

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“There’s a lot of excitement, being part of the Indian Test team for the World Test Championship and the England series which is I think a very big achievement for me. It’s about trying to prepare to the best of my abilities because it’s difficult to bring those conditions here.
“I am practising with my coach Apurva Desai, on green wickets which have a bit of moisture in them. There are a few bowlers at the academy, we practise from morning, just trying to make sure I am better prepared for England because I have been playing only white-ball cricket here,” Abhimanyu Easwaran told Sportskeeda.

Former India captain Rahul Dravid, while speaking at a webinar organised by Live Aid India on May 9, gave insights into how the sun suddenly disappears in the UK, which then enables the faster bowlers to make the ball talk. He thus harped on the need for batsmen to always stay on their toes and not switch off at any time. Abhimanyu Easwaran also sounded the same opinion as his former India A coach.

Check the latest World Test Championship final score here.

“As Rahul sir said, once it gets a little overcast, the ball starts swinging more than it usually does, with the old ball even after 40 overs. It’s just about being disciplined, and I think if I can just make sure I am mentally disciplined in practice and play each ball to its merit, it’s going to help me a lot in the game,” Abhimanyu Easwaran affirmed.

For the record, all 24 players and support staff have been asked to report to Mumbai on May 19. They will then go through 14 days of hard quarantine before departing for the UK on June 2. These are, however, tentative dates, according to Easwaran.


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“It’s about pushing yourself every day at practice and believing in your game” – Abhimanyu Easwaran

Abhimanyu Easwaran has scored 4,401 runs at an average of 43.57 in 64 first-class matches with 13 hundreds and 18 fifties to boot [Credits: IE]

Abhimanyu Easwaran cemented his place in the India A squad after making headlines in the 2018/19 Ranji Trophy, amassing 861 runs at an astounding average of 95.66. But he hasn’t been able to reach similar heights since, let alone scaling new peaks.

In the 2019/20 Ranji season, Easwaran managed a meagre 258 runs at an average of 17.20, with a top score of 62. The cancellation of the prestigious event last year didn’t help either. He was left with only the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy to get back among runs.

After being relieved off captaincy duties, Abhimanyu Easwaran didn’t get a game in the 20-over competition and totalled 219 runs at an average of 43.80 in the 50-over format. But again, remembering MS Dhoni’s words, being in a positive frame of mind helps overshadow all the negative developments of the past.

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By that logic, it’s good news for the Indian team that Abhimanyu Easwaran is feeling confident about his batting. He even seems to have a mature head on his shoulders, labeling his past failures as a part and parcel of every sportsperson’s career.

“I think it’s more about how you feel, I think I am batting pretty well at the moment. And failures come in every cricketer’s life, it’s not something new. It’s about pushing yourself every day at practice and believing in your game, because I don’t think there’s any major change I have had in my batting. It’s just that there are times you don’t get those runs...I have the confidence that once I get a start, I’ll get back among runs,” Abhimanyu Easwaran emphatically said.

He is very close to that start. The preparations he is putting in, coupled with the exposure he will get with the Indian team and seeing them play in the UK, will hold Abhimanyu Easwaran in good stead to set the forthcoming domestic season ablaze. He, too admitted to wanting to return an improved cricketer.

“For me, it’s about trying to improve as a player every single day and be prepared for any opportunity I get and even if I don’t, I want to be a better player when I come back. Being with the Indian team always gives you a lot of confidence, I just want to make the most of it and give my best shot,” Abhimanyu Easwaran added.

Not only that, he even wants to impart whatever knowledge he acquires and lessons he learns abroad to his Bengal teammates.

“Yeah obviously, that’s what we have been taught. If you keep sharing [knowledge], you keep learning more. We had this thing with Wriddhiman Saha – whenever he used to come back from international tours and join the team, we used to always ask him questions about the tour, the things he learnt.
"So once I come back, it will be my duty to share my experience about whatever I learn on the tour, so that I can help my fellow players and the overall team in the next season,” Abhimanyu Easwaran concluded.

After making the Ranji final in March 2020, Bengal failed to progress beyond the group stages in both the domestic competitions at the start of this year. However, it is safe to assume good results await both Bengal and Indian cricket.


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Edited by Habil Ahmed Sherule
 
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