India off-spinner R Ashwin (right) celebrates South African Hashim Amla’s wicket with captain Virat Kohli during the ICC Champions Trophy match at The Oval in London on Sunday. Pic/AFP
Ravichandran Ashwin hates sitting on the sidelines. He is the type of character who searches deeply for solutions to ensure he stays ahead of the game. So the minute he had been discarded from the playing XI for the first two matches of the Champions Trophy, the off-spinning maestro went searching for answers.
The day before the Sri Lanka match it was clear that India would stick with the same paying group that defeated Pakistan in the opening match. It was clear at the practice session that Ashwin had been told that he would not feature in the match.
Accept a challenge
Ashwin took this snub as a challenge and set about sharpening his skills. For three hours he bowled continuously at various batsmen. In between, he had the video analyst station the camera right behind him as he bowled one after another. He experimented by using the width of the crease and asked Ravindra Jadeja to monitor if he had been cutting the popping crease. After a few overs, he would look at replays and have discussions with bowling coach R Sridhar about the various facets such as his arm angle, his wrist and follow through.
It was Ashwin, the thinking analytical cricketer at his best. The loss against Sri Lanka on a flat pitch and also the fact that India were going to play on the same pitch played right into his hands.
But the fact that he was ready for the challenge and the way he had been working on his game, showcased his dedication to the game. The minute he was introduced into the attack in the 10th over, he looked like a man desperate to prove his credentials. The hard work in the nets seemed to have an effect as he changed his pace and length superbly.
The off-spinner undid the well set Hashim Amla with a ball that the South African opener thought was much shorter than he thought, causing him to edge it to the 'keeper.
It was the start of collapse as SA went from 0-76 to be bowled out for 191. Ashwin's disciplined act ensured India tightened the noose around the South African batsmen and it resulted in AB De Villiers and David Miller being run out trying to go for suicidal runs.
Ashwin finished the day with respectable figures of 1-43 from his nine overs. But it must be Ashwin's work ethic and execution that would have made him immensely proud.
Video: Team India abused on Champions Trophy 2017 Wikipedia page
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