The way the offie has been bowling in 2015, most people are tempted to believe that he is indeed a different bowler
'Spin to Win'... I can almost hear this chant inside the Indian dressing room. Before the first Test, the Indian team had won their last three home Test matches inside three days and the match at Mohali was no different.
Also read: Mohali Test - Very surprised with the shots, says R Ashwin
India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bowls on Day Two of first Test against South Africa at Mohali on Friday. Pic/PTI
The Indian spin trio and a spin-ready pitch from the first day is a deadly combo, and once India got the first use of the pitch, it was relatively one-sided affair. While the scorecard might suggest that South Africa got fairly close to India's total in the first innings, the fact is that anything less than a 75-run lead was a failure for them. Since South Africa had to bat last on this pitch, they needed the cushion of those extra runs. But they fell short by 17 runs in the first innings itself.
Ashwin, the spin king?
Should we call it Ashwin 2.0 or wait a little longer? While Ashwin has an enviable home record, his overseas numbers are fairly pedestrian. And once that's the case, there's a lot of room for a debate. Is it the conditions that have made him such a force in the recent past or has he actually unearthed some hidden treasure? The way he's bowling in 2015, most people are tempted to believe that he is indeed a different bowler now.
There are a few things that you want to see in a spinner — spin, bounce, drift and dip. At the moment, Ashwin has all that and more. He is also pitching the ball outside off, inviting the batsmen to play against the spin and, more importantly, he's staying away from too many variations.
He's already taken eight wickets in this series and I'd be very surprised if he finishes with less than 25 wickets in the series. In fact, he's my horse for the man of the series award. About the verdict on his abilities, I'd say that the jury is still out. Ashwin, like many others of his ilk these days, come with a 'conditions apply' tag and till he spins a web outside the subcontinent at least once, I'll hold my horses.
Kudos to Vijay, Pujara
Anyone who plays only one format should be respected more than the rest. And if that format happens to be Test cricket, he should be respected even more, for limited overs matches happen almost once a week; Tests not even once a month. The moment you go away from the international circuit, you are reduced to playing bowlers of much lesser quality and that too, only if the domestic circuit is on at that time. If not, you are completely left to your own devices. It's in Indian cricket's interest to keep Pujara and Vijay in good shape, for they are the ones who will bail the team out in tough conditions. They will make cricket in whites in vogue too.
The way ahead
While losses magnify mistakes, victories hide them. But good teams become great teams only if they keep a close tab on their mistakes. The biggest error of judgment on the Indian team management's part was the playing combination they picked for Mohali, for playing two fast bowlers on a pitch like that was futile. In fact, it felt that since Kohli had played two seamers, he felt obliged to use them more than he should have.
The first hour of the second day could have cost India the game if Ashwin didn't turn the tables in the second hour of the opening session. Kohli is a young captain, leading a young team and hence it's the duty of the team management to chip in with valuable inputs. One of those should focus on picking horses for courses (read only four bowlers on a bowler-friendly pitch) and proper utilisation of the resources.
Number of wickets taken by R Ashwin in six Tests this year at an average of 20.82