R Ashwin: I see a purple patch coming up for me in Test cricket

Published: May 04, 2020, 09:01 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

In a chat with Sanjay Manjrekar, Ashwin also said that he does not favour 4-day Cricket

n Virat Kohli (R) and teammate Ravichandran Ashwin react during the third day of the second Test match between India and New Zealand at the Eden Gardens cricket stadium in Kolkata on October 2, 2016
n Virat Kohli (R) and teammate Ravichandran Ashwin react during the third day of the second Test match between India and New Zealand at the Eden Gardens cricket stadium in Kolkata on October 2, 2016

In the latest episode of ESPNcricinfo Videocast that airs on May 2, 2020, R Ashwin talks about his future, his accuracy as a bowler, what makes him clicks in short-format cricket, future of spinners and how can they stay relevant in the ever-evolving game of Cricket.

“I am good at T20 cricket. If my body holds up, I see a purple patch coming up for me in test Cricket”, says Ravichandran Ashwin, an all-rounder who bats right-handed and bowls right-arm off break when Sanjay Manjarekar, host of ESPNcricinfo asks him about his future plans. R Ashwin does not favour 4-day Cricket. He says, “I am a spinner and you’re taking the fifth day out of the game, you’re taking out a very fascinating aspect of the game.”

ICC has been considering 4-day test as part of the World Test Championship from 2023. However, the world's cricketers stand as the most likely source of opposition to the change, with many viewing the step up from four-day first-class games to five-day Tests as a critical point of difference at the top end of the long-form game (source: ESPNcricinfo article dated Dec 30, 2019)

R Ashwin shares the secret of his ability to produce variations in finger spin with so much accuracy and the influence Woorkeri Raman, former Indian cricketer and current coach of the India women's national cricket team’s coaching technique had on him. “WV Raman who is known to be a straight forward and extremely disciplined man trained us to throw the ball accurately that should land above the stumps. He also maintained that I stand no chance as a spinner if I cannot hit the top of the bat of a batsman every time I bowled.”

R Ashwin further adds, “Infact, WV Raman helped me master my rhythm. He was the first person who with or without his knowledge, inculcated this self-conscious training inside me. He would keep telling me, you’re running 10% slower or you’re running 15% faster. And this put me in a great place when I started playing first class Cricket. And these are the things that I will never forget in my career. But because he was straight forward, a bit dismissive and he could put pressure on people, they started moving away from him.”

R Ashwin shares more such anecdotes on WV Raman’s training that shaped him as a spinner that he is today.

R Ashwin has one of the best record of bowling with a new ball. “I like a new ball because of the fizz that I get on it. One of my strengths is to be able to put revs on the hard ball as it responds better to the pitch. But I generally like to use the arm ball in first 2 or 3 overs. Because when you use the arm ball, it challenges both the edges of the batsman and forces him to go across the line which is rendered risky The others that I use are the floaters that swing, the one that pitches in and goes out or the other one that lands on the seam and gets to go the other way. So these balls become very effective.”

“With a new ball I use my middle finger more than the index finger but when I bowl with an older ball, I try and get over the top. Sometimes, I don’t use index finger to go over the top, It is behind and I still put the revs and that’s when the ball actually goes the other way”, adds R Ashwin.

Commenting on future of finger spin and success of Mohammad Nabi, Afghan all-rounder and off-break bowler, R Ashwin says, “I am really surprised that at the last IPL people could not pick up what I was bowling. They thought I was bowling the carrom ball but actually I was bowling reverse carrom because when I would bowl that I would get a lot out of the pitch. Sometimes it can spin, sometimes I could get it to skid.”

R Ashwin points, “In a T-20 cricket, you need to call yourself a bowler. At times you should be able to bowl a bouncer or a spinner. Wrist spin is successful not because it is challenging both edges of the bat but because of its unpredictable nature when bowling length. And this makes wrist spin extremely relevant. Now imagine if someone can dish out unpredictable stuff in a very aware manner. That’s the journey I have taken, and that’s why I found myself amongst the wickets and in extreme control last year when I was bowling in Mohali which can be very challenging.” He adds, “In any white ball cricket, you can only hunt wickets down unless people are not picking it, but that is at a very novel stage of your career. Post that you should be able to dish out things at will that can surprise the batsman. Once you can keep the batsman guessing, chances of them bossing over you is very little.”

“Mohammad Nabi is a great spinner in T-20 format. He is able to change his line and length at will and that’s because he has done these repetitions in the longest format i.e. Test cricket. If you wake Nabi up at 3 in the night, he’ll be able to bowl at the sticker of the bat, he will then be able to change his line to wider, to closer or Yorker”, says R Ashwin. He adds, “But what is happening with wrist and finger spinner is complete eradication of logic. So, if you want finger spinner as an attacking option, he should be able to do everything that a wrist spinner does in terms of length and line for which he needs to develop the awareness of his own bowling.”

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