Ashwin strikes back

Posted on April 29, 2014


A piece on R Ashwin written during the World T20, with some updates.

When the New Year dawned for R Ashwin, the tag of spin spearhead of the Indian team was cast in a spell of doubt for the spinner. With forgettable outings in South Africa and New Zealand, Ashwin faced a lean patch that saw him excluded from the playing eleven of the side.

But, the lanky off-spinner – nominated for the Arjuna Award –found his groove with a consistent show in the ongoing World T20 in Bangladesh.

“I feel that I’m probably at the top of my bowling game. When I reach that phase, I pretty much don’t practice at all. That’s a phase I’m in right now. The ball is landing exactly where I want it,” Ashwin had said ahead of the semifinal game where he dismissed Hashim Amla with a well-executed carrom ball that took the off-stump after pitching outside the leg-stump.

Instead being bogged down from his exclusion, Ashwin put to good use the break in New Zealand. According to his coach Sunil Subramaniam, Ashwin spent his time on working on the finer points of his action and delivery stride.

“After returning from New Zealand, he called me for a nets session to have a look on what he had been working on. It was about moving his body. He spent the time not playing on working on the landing of his back foot, forearm positions, moving his ribs. There was a difference (in his action),” Subramaniam, a former Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy player.

Ashwin, not among the visibly fittest players in circuit, has always stickler for fine tuning his action. Last year ahead of the Test series against Australia, he had worked on transferring his weight while delivering the ball. The action worked and he dedicated his seven-wicket haul in Chennai to his coach.

Ashwin, according to Subramaniam, had lost his way during the New Zealand tour. Ashwin failed to use the momentum of his body which affected his bowling, he had said.

The change has been evident in Bangladesh with Ashwin scalping 11 wickets in six matches with an economy of below six. Most his overs have come around the wicket, an aggressive approach.

“It’s been a part of his arsenal always (bowling around the wicket). He cuts the down the room for the batsman and puts pressure on scoring. It is gives him more options to cut down big shots with all his variations. It’s the trajectory he bowls at and the line he keeps. So it is difficult to play big shot across the line and chances arise on the edge. Six-seven balls like that and that too in T20 game and a lot of pressure is put,” said Subramaniam.

Full sleeve surprise

It came as surprise when Ashwin bowled with a full sleeve jersey in the Asia Cup against Bangladesh.

“We had a lot of discussions on this. Bowling with full sleeves allows you to extend the elbow and you get power to bowl the doosra. And it gives more revolutions on the balls. Maybe he was trying to make a point,” clarified Subramaniam.

For Ashwin, bigger challenges await later this year when India tour England and later Australia, ahead of the World Cup. His variations may come good in the shorter formats of the game but Test matches present a different scenario.

“The variations are surely his strength; the bowlers have to keep trying it in the shorter formats. In the longer formats it is best to maintain the basics and use the stock delivery ball well,” said Subramaniam.


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