The Abhimanyu Easwaran conundrum: Who is right? 

The Abhimanyu Easwaran conundrum: Who is right? 

Indian team management in England seem to have doubts about Easwaran's technique and the ability to cope up with the English conditions.

Abhimanyu Easwaran
Abhimanyu Easwaran. (Photo Source: Twitter)

With Shubman Gill injured and supposed to be out for a considerable duration, it was natural that Abhimanyu Easwaran, the standby opener for the World Test Championship and England tour, would take his position in the squad. After all, that is how Washington Sundar and T Natarajan had made their debuts in Australia when first-teamers had suffered injuries and quarantine rules meant that the team had no option but to call upon the two players, originally flown with the team as net bowlers.

However, in Easwaran’s case, going by the reports, there appears to be a twist in the tale- Indian team management in England seem to have doubts about his technique and the ability to cope up with the English conditions and have apparently asked for Prithvi Shaw and Devdutt Padikkal, who are currently with the second team in Sri Lanka, as replacements for Gill.

The selection committee, who had chosen the Bengal batsman as the standby in the first place, appear to have stonewalled the request. With both sides engaged in a standoff, who is right? Perhaps a detailed look at the numbers can help provide insight.

Three players have made their debuts in Tests for India as openers in the last five years – Prithvi Shaw (2018), Mayank Agarwal (2018), and Shubman Gill (2020). Then there are Easwaran and Priyank Panchal, who have been called up as standbys to the squad this year. A comparison of these five players over the two seasons of Ranji Trophy (India’s premier long-format domestic competition) prior to their selection in the squad reveals that while Agarwal, Shaw, and Gill certainly displayed superior form to power their way into the reckoning, Easwaran doesn’t fare too badly. He accumulated 1251 runs at more than a decent average of 48.11, slamming four centuries in the process.

Table 1- Ranji trophy Record Two Seasons Prior to Selection

Sr. No.

Player Name Matches Played Innings Batted Runs Scored Average 50s 100s
1 Abhimanyu Easwaran 15 27 1251 48.11 6 4
2 Mayank Agarwal 16 26 1466 63.73 5 5
3 Prithvi Shaw 8 16 776 51.73 3 4
4 Priyank Panchal 18 34 1355 43.7 6 5
5 Shubman Gill 11 19 1148 71.75 5 4

However, superior performance in the Ranji Trophy has often been considered necessary, but not a sufficient condition, for, there have been many who lit up the domestic scene but failed to replicate the same form when picked to play at the highest level. Earlier, the selection committee’s job in evaluating the potential suitability for the international level of a promising player happened to be on their instincts and judgment rather than data, as ‘A’ team matches were hard to come by.

However, thankfully, the scenario has changed in recent times and the India A team has played quite a lot of cricket since the start of the previous decade. The data from these games- featuring the overseas talent of high quality and varied conditions- can be a good proxy for determining if the player is cut out for the highest level.

It is through the comparison of data on this parameter that an answer begins to emerge. As can be seen in Table 2, Easwaran’s average drops to under 40 when playing for India A. However, if we consider only overseas games of India A, his average drops down much steeper to 25.75. His average on both counts also happens to be the lowest among all five openers, while the 23 and 13 innings he has played, for the ‘A’ team in general and in overseas conditions, respectively, happen to be the highest amongst all and sufficient enough for making inferences.

Table 2- India A First-Class Record Two Seasons Prior to Selection

Sr. No. Player Name Matches Played Innings Batted Runs Scored Average 50s 100s
1 Abhimanyu Easwaran 14 23 861 39.13 3 2
2 Mayank Agarwal 7 12 593 49.41 3 1
3 Prithvi Shaw 4 7 406 58 1 2
4 Priyank Panchal 9 15 873 58.2 3 4
5 Shubman Gill 8 13 970 88.18 5 3

 Table 3- Overseas First-Class Record for India A Two Seasons Prior to Selection

Sr. No. Player Name Matches Played Innings Batted Runs Scored Average 50s 100s
1 Abhimanyu Easwaran 7 13 313 25.75 0 2
2 Mayank Agarwal 4 7 218 31.14 2 0
3 Prithvi Shaw 2 4 250 62.5 1 1
4 Priyank Panchal 4 8 327 49.15 1 2
5 Shubman Gill 5 7 729 145.8 2 3

Conclusion

Easwaran’s case seems to be that of an excellent, promising domestic player who is not yet cut for the rigors of international cricket. This should not be taken as an indictment; at 25, he is clearly a prospect who should be groomed further so that he can make the step up in the future; but, for now, the team management seems to have got this one right.