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'Exceptional work ethic' sets new Bengal captain Abhimanyu Easwaran apart

Abhimanyu Easwaran will lead Bengal across formats in the 2019-20 season PTI

Abhimanyu Easwaran's career graph continues to rise. Already a regular opener with India A who is knocking on the doors of the national team, the 23-year-old Bengal player has now been handed the captaincy of the state team for the 2019-20 season across formats. It's a move that has made both Arun Lal, the team mentor, and Manoj Tiwary, the man he replaced, happy and excited.

"He hasn't got runs on the West Indies tour [by India A] and in the Duleep Trophy, but he is a terrific batsman, very, very talented, and he has exceptional work ethic," Lal told ESPNcricinfo. "He is young, and the best part about him is his work ethic, which is brilliant. He is very fit, and is always working hard to become fitter and a better cricketer.

"I like him very much; he has been living alone in Calcutta, away from his family, for a while now, but it hasn't affected his game at all. It's quite remarkable. I also like that he is very respectful towards his seniors and towards his team-mates. I think it's a good call."

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Like Lal, Tiwary too has big hopes from Abhimanyu, who has risen to become one of their batting mainstays. Except for his debut season in 2013-14, when he averaged a measly 17.62, Abhimanyu has consistently been among the runs, often averaging in the high 40s, with 12 centuries and 17 half-centuries.

"I will be very disappointed if he doesn't play for India," Tiwary said. "He's worked hard to get here. I said it two years ago that he's India material. He's nearly there now, and hopefully he will wear that cap soon.

"I only hope he is persisted with and is given a decent run, and shouldn't be judged on the basis of a few low scores. He has a good technique and has the ability to leave balls. Once set, his scoring improves and he's a different player."

The captaincy decision was made formal on Friday at a Cricket Association of Bengal meeting, where the selectors initially proposed a split-captaincy model with Abhimanyu as four-day captain and Tiwary as the limited-overs leader. Tiwary, however, felt the new captain "needed to given space" to make a difference.

"While the trophy may not be there, I'm happy to have handled the transition phase well. I can be at peace with myself, because I did the job with utmost sincerity and commitment" Manoj Tiwary

"The selectors proposed a split-captaincy model, but I insisted if they are thinking of a leadership change, it should be uniform," Tiwary said. "That way the new captain gets a free hand to implement certain plans he may have in mind. Having different captains could only create some confusion, so I told them if this is what they're thinking, they should hand over the captaincy across formats."

On the change, Lal suggested that "a captain should in any case be changed every three-four years", partly for the team to move forward and partly because "the captain has contributed all he can contribute".

As for Tiwary, he wanted his successor to not let captaincy become a bugbear.

"Abhimanyu is level-headed, approaches situations in a calm manner. As a senior player, my only advice to him will be to soak it all in and not get too caught up in the job, because you're not just thinking for yourself but also the team," Tiwary said. "He's at a stage in his career where he's also broken into the India A ranks and is in national contention. Sometimes, when you're there, you tend to lose the enjoyment factor and take everything a tad too seriously.

"I'm always around as a senior player to help him out. He will be his own man, but should he need any support, as a senior, I will be around to help him."

Tiwary looked back at his stint with pride, despite Bengal failing to win any silverware under him. While their search for a Ranji Trophy since 1989-90 continues, the side made the semi-finals two seasons ago, and have consistently been in the reckoning for the knockouts. Tiwary hoped the "fruits of labour" would bear fruit soon.

"I will look back at my time as captain fondly. Yes, we couldn't win the big Ranji Trophy, but we had a lot of improvements. A number of players we backed three or four years ago are coming through," he said. "While the trophy may not be there, I'm happy to have handled the transition phase well. I can be at peace with myself, because I did the job with utmost sincerity and commitment."

With inputs from Shamya Dasgupta