Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's key role in all three of India's thumping wins in the tournament is as vital as contributions from Kohli and Dhawan
Perth: While the Indian team's pace department made the headlines for all the wrong reasons (read: injury worries) in the run-up to this World Cup, it is the spin department that has shone as the tournament has progressed.
India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bowls against UAE on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
And spearheading it is versatile off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.The 28-year-old Chennai tweaker came to Australia with a lot of baggage, as questions marks were constantly raised about his overseas performance or rather, the lack of it. India's surrender in the Test series and poor show in the tri-series thereafter didn't do any favours to the offie either. However, in the tournament that matters — the World Cup — Ashwin has turned the tables, much like his flattish variations turn that wee bit to deceive some of the best batsmen in business.
Ashwin has had a key role to play in all three of India's thumping wins this World Cup. His three maiden overs against Pakistan, 3-41 against South Africa and career-best of 4-25 against UAE have been equally, if not more important than Virat Kohli's 107 vs Pak, Shikhar Dhawan's 137 against SA and Rohit Sharma's 57 against UAE in India's three World Cup outings this far.
It's no wonder that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his deputy Kohli have both been lavish in their praise for the Chennai tweaker, who has played 24 Tests and 91 ODIs for India, taking 119 and 128 wickets respectively. "You have to find the right length and right trajectory to bowl and Ashwin has done that very well. He used his faster one and was successful in getting turn and bounce too (at the WACA)," Dhoni said after the win over UAE.
"Ashwin is a very skillful bowler, and I think he's at his best when he wants to take wickets. Against Pakistan, he was on top of the batsmen the whole time because he was looking to attack all the time," Kohli had said after the Pakistan win. Not only teammates, but even opponents are appreciating Ashwin's exploits. "I was confident and my feet were also moving nicely, but then suddenly that particular delivery (from Ashwin) turned a little bit more than I expected. Ashwin was too good," said UAE's wicketkeeper batsman Swapnil Patil, who was deceived by the offie's arm ball which he edged to Dhawan in the slips.
'He's a thinking bowler'
India team manager and a former off-spinner himself, Arshad Ayub said Ashwin was making life difficult for opponents because he can alter things at the last minute. "Ashwin is a thinking bowler. Not only is he bowling a good line and length, he is also making subtle adjustments that are deceiving the batsmen," Ayub (56), who played 13 Tests and 32 ODIs for India said. "And don't forget, Ashwin's batting is really good too," added Ayub.
While statistics and man of the match awards go hand-in-hand with good performances, Ashwin has already got more than he bargained for in this World Cup with legendary leggie Anil Kumble comparing the spinner to himself. "I see a lot of myself in Ashwin… his grit and determination are very impressive," said Kumble while being inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame at the Melbourne Cricket Ground recently. Doubtless, Ashwin must be mighty pleased, but not satisfied.
No of wkts taken by Ashwin in 3 matches. He has given away 107 runs (average 13.37)