CHENNAI: It was ironical that on a day when selectors were set to announce the squad for the one-off Test against Bangladesh, Abhinav Mukund was asked about being labelled as a long-format player. It was not that he wouldn’t have spoken about how hopeful he was of getting a recall to the Test side otherwise, because that had been his only focus over the last couple of seasons. It was what he kept telling the scribes every time he spoke. Each time he expected a call-up, he went to bed dejected. But Tuesday was definitely different for Abhinav.
When he was thrust into the international scene in 2011 for the tours of Caribbean and England, he admitted that he wasn’t prepared. He was 21 then. When the axe fell on him, he took it in the chin and pushed himself more to get the place back. At times, he even over-tried, and soon it became an obsession. Naturally, runs dried up, he lost his place in zonal tournaments and the India A team. It even gave rise to thoughts of completely quitting the game.
It was in this frame of mind that Abhinav began this domestic season. He was a different person. India cap wasn’t the sole goal, it was more about enjoying the game and being focussed. With a young team at his disposal, the opener thought about leaving a legacy with the state side rather than just looking at it as a launchpad. He instilled a sense of purpose and urgency in the TN side.
“It is easy to be calm but eventually when you see a player’s body, it shows through the stiffness. Abhinav, from the time he joined the Ranji camp, appeared totally relaxed and focussed. He prepared hard and was trying to take his game to the next level and kept working on it. He 100 per cent deserves this,” TN coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar told Express.
The change is visible in his batting as well as in person. There is an air of quiet confidence surrounding Abhinav these days. Though he is only 27, he has already spent a decade in domestic cricket and has more than 100 first-class matches in his CV. With 849 runs at an average of 65.30 in 10 matches, he was the highest run-scorer for his state this Ranji season and every time some opener in the national squad picked up an injury, Abhinav used to look forward to selection meetings.
“Right through the season, he showed consistency and it was natural of him to be dejected when he didn’t find his name in the squad. But he never let that affect him. He would immediately focus on the next and engage with teammates. May be in a personal level and space, he would have been a little low, but that is understandable. Personally, he should have scored a few more runs,” Kanikar said.
The selectors also included the fit-again Wriddhiman Saha in place of Parthiv Patel, who played the last three Tests against England. Ajinkya Rahane, Jayant Yadav and Hardik Pandya were also back in the squad led by Virat Kohli. Abhinav’s inclusion meant there was no place for Shikhar Dhawan or Gautam Gambhir. Murali Vijay and KL Rahul are the first-choice openers and there is a possibility that Abhinav might get a longer run in the side, with Australia set to follow Bangladesh for a four-Test series beginning in the last week of February.