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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Best day of my cricketing life: Ravichandran Ashwin

Hardly anyone uses the term ‘classical’ when describing R Ashwin’s off-spin bowling. The adjectives often heard in reference to him are mystery spinner, unorthodox, maverick, etcetera. But anyone who watched Ashwin bowl at the Chepauk on the first day of the Test against Australia would have been taken back to the good old days of the Indian spin bowling.
Everything about his bowling was classical – the wrist, the trajectory and the way he set up the batsman before deceiving him with subtle change of pace. He kept pitching the ball on full length, gave it generous air and got it to dip on the batsman. The way Ashwin bowled for his six for 86, would have brought a wide smile on the face of Erapalli Prasanna.
It was such special an occasion that a generally equanimous Ashwin allowed himself to get dominated by his emotions, even if just for a moment. This is his first Test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium – the ground that has seen Ashwin grow up from a lanky young opening batsman to Team India’s leading spinner in Tests.
During his end-of-day chat with bcci.tv, a candid Ashwin spoke about his minor struggles during the Test series against England and the notion held by people about him being a variation bowler rather than an off-spinner.
Not a bad first day of Test cricket on your home ground
It’s a lovely feeling and it’s very hard to describe. This is probably the best day of my life. At different points people have asked me, ‘Which has been your best day?’ and I’ve struggled to pick one. But this has to be the best one so far. It’s a very nice way to get back into the groove after a tough England series. Whenever I step on this ground, I feel like the grass, the air, they’re all talking to me. It’s a lovely feeling coming here as I think that I know this ground like the back of my palm. Today I also got my 200th first-class wicket here. I’d like to put it in my pocket and take it wherever I go.
It’s not always that the number in the wicket column reflects how a bowler bowled. But today it did in your case. Do you think this is the best you’ve bowled in a long time?
Every time you bowl well and you don’t get wickets, you’re the only person who says, ‘I did well but the wickets didn’t go my way’ and no one else agrees with you. It’s only when you pick up wickets that people tell you that you’ve bowled brilliantly. There’s no two ways about it.
It was evident that you’ve learned a lot after the England series and had done a lot of homework.
With these long four-match Test series you don’t get a lot of time to bounce back between matches. With the kind of form that Alastair Cook had struck in that series it’s really very hard to come back. While I was pretty happy with the way I did keep coming back in that series, there were a couple of things that had to be worked on by going back to the drawing board. At times, you just forget things and start losing crucial aspects of your game midway in the series. It’s really hard when people come and tell you in the middle of the series what needs to be done. But once the series is over, the receptiveness in you comes back and you’re more mentally prepared to listen to what people have to say. I do put a lot of faith in the support staff that I have around me, and I do follow what they say.
What did they say was wrong and how did you correct it?
It isn’t a big thing actually. On wickets that are not receptive, you tend to rotate your hip across, try to put more on the ball, you tend to lose your body position, your head starts falling over and you get into a hyperextension. All these things happen when a finger spinner tries too hard to extract more out of the wicket. When all this happens, you need to be able to accept that while you did all these things trying to be more effective, you also need to get back to your original style when you bowl the next time. But in the middle of the series, it doesn’t happen that way because the momentum carries you through the series.
Your wrist position was immaculate, which helped you bowl that perfect off-spinner – something not seen consistently with you
My strengths all through my career have been my revolutions and wrist work. People are bound to have their opinions and I don’t have the right to barge into anyone’s opinion. But I’ve always believed in being confident about what I think I am. There are other factors, which lead to what’s happening with the wrist and how the ball comes out of your hand. It’s very hard for someone sitting a long way away to say exactly what’s wrong, but people who mattered did know what was wrong and I ended up following what they had to say.
How much did your success today have to do with the fact that this Australian line-up is packed with left-handers?
I’ve always relished bowling to the left-handed batsmen. You always fancy bowling to the batsmen you can take the ball away from. But today, especially with the way I bowled to Clarke, Watson and Henriques through the day, I knew that I was on the top of my game. I didn’t give them a single ball to cut or to drive through the off-side. That’s probably the talking point of the day for me.


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