India vs England: How Ravichandran Ashwin spoilt Alastair Cook's recipe for runs
India off-spinner's variations sent Alastair’s big-scoring ambitions for a toss and ensured England captain didn't repeat his success in 2005-06 & 2012-13
India's R Ashwin walks back to the pavilion with a souvenir stump and ball after helping India beat England in the fourth Test on Monday. Inset: Alistair Cook
Alastair Cook is the only English player who has a good record against spin in the sub-continent. Of his 30 Test hundreds, nine hundreds (five vs India, two vs Bangladesh, one vs Sri Lanka and one vs Pakistan) have been scored on spin-friendly tracks. Quite a few of them were big hundreds — 263 against Pakistan, 173 against Bangladesh and 190 against India. It all started with his unbeaten debut hundred against India in Nagpur in 2006 and since then, he has scored heavily in India.
When England toured India in 2012-13, captain Cook led from the front with some decisive knocks — 176 in the first Test at Ahmedabad, 122 in the second Test in Mumbai and 190 in the third Test in Kolkata. Each ton proved to be the cornerstone of an English win. It was possible because he dominated the Indian spinners easily.
Failure to dominate
It's different this time. Except in the first Test in Rajkot, Cook hasn't been able to dominate the Indian spinners like he did in the last series. If England called the shots in Rajkot it was because he also dominated the spinners there. Of his eight dismissals in the last four Tests, Cook has fallen to spinners on seven occasions - thrice to R Ashwin and four times to Ravindra Jadeja. On six occasions, he walked back to the pavilion with below-50 scores to his name.
Cook's inability to dominate the spinners, especially Ashwin, who has inflicted maximum damage (27 wickets in four Tests) has proved to be the key reason for England's downfall in this series. Talking about the Indian spinner against whom he has scored only.
82 of a total of 310 in four Tests this year, Cook said he is proving to be very difficult to face now since he has improved massively. In the 2012-13 series, Cook scored 217 runs off Ashwin in a total of 548 runs.
"It is very difficult to play him now. He is certainly a better bowler than he was a couple of years ago. He has bowled well and improved massively over the last couple of years. He does not miss length too much. As a spinner, if you don't miss length you are always putting the batsman under pressure," said the England captain.
Ashwin's toil pays off
Cook also hailed Ashwin's variations. "He does not bowl too many bad balls and you can see that his confidence is sky-high now. He is confident and that's why he has that control. He is also bowling more variations. Credit to him. Put that down to hard work. If you work hard enough and you are good enough, you get your rewards," the England captain concluded.
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