Harbhajan Singh. R Ashwin faces the same situation, but the Tamil Nadu off-spinner isn't complaining. He's ready to wait for his chance, like in the World Cup. "Probably if I were born three or four years later, I would have been luckier," says Ashwin.
Excerpts from an exclusive chat:
How has the World Cup been for your career?
It's been a dream-come-true for me. I saw the 1992 and 1996 World Cups as a kid. Since then, I had always wanted to wear the Indian jersey and play in a World Cup. I never thought it would happen so soon. I hope I played a part in India winning the World Cup. Yes, I think I did.
Which WC moments you cherish the most?
When I was picked for the games I played and was asked to bowl with the new ball. Even if it's a double-edged sword, it's these moments you take confidence from. The magic moment came when I dismissed Shane Watson. It cleared a big obstacle from India's path to victory. It's these things that lift your confidence.
How did it feel when you were not picked for the next match after playing a key role against Australia?
There are several instances when Cesc Fabregas has scored a goal but hasn't played the next match. It's sad we don't have a medium pace all-rounder, and hence playing two spinners is a luxury.
Now if you look only from a selfish angle, you will not contribute to team's growth. But for me the team comes first.
You are competing with an established player like Harbhajan Singh?
When I was 13-14, I saw Harbhajan take 30 odd wickets against Australia. That was the first time I really thought off-spin could be an option. It's an honour to watch him from so close and see how he goes about things. I am just looking at whatever I can learn from him, put it in practice, and be a better bowler in future. Harbhajan is a great; I am just stepping onto the ladder.
Professional rivalry is natural when you are competing for the same spot?
It never happens to me, may be something is wrong with me. But I am happy the way I am. I don't go on the field telling myself that I have to win against this guy. I play this game only for fun and if there was no fun in it, I wouldn't be playing.
Do you sometimes feel that you are born in a wrong era, as you may not get enough opportunities with Harbhajan around?
You can't really help it. Maybe if I were born three or fours years later than I did, I might have been luckier. Even if my career isn't scripted perfectly, I am happy with what has happened in my life, and will remain the same irrespective of what happens in future. I have no regrets whatsoever.
Do you feel extra motivated when you are playing against his team, the Mumbai Indians, in the IPL?
I don't know how you can weigh a bowler against a bowler. It's eleven people who we have to outsmart. He is another cricketer, and I am another. At the end of the day you are playing a game, which is a source of fun and should remain the same.
How do you complement each other?
Playing together against the West Indies and Australia was brilliant. Every time I had something to say, I would go and tell him. It was easy for him to shut out a youngster, but he didn't and we always had a good chat. We were very happy for each. I could feel pleasure in the tears of Harbhajan, Tendulkar, Yuvraj when we won.
There was a strong opinion that you should have played much earlier. How's your equation with Dhoni, who knows you well?
The equation with the captain doesn't matter. Being a part of the side with an ace spinner, you got to be a fool to feel disappointed at not being picked. I was waiting for an opportunity, training hard to cover all bases. Dhoni has been giving me a lot confidence, and I was confident that he would play me whenever he felt I could make a difference in a given scenario. I need to be thankful to him; he has given me chance to prove my abilities.
You didn't get time to savour your World Cup win?
If that’s the way cricket has to be, that's how it will be. As a cricketer of the modern era, you will have to adjust. Indian Premier League is not a lesser tournament, we will try to win again and be the Manchester United of this competition.