India's win at Chennai was scripted by towering performances from two cricketers with strong Chennai connections. R Ashwin was a revelation with his 12 wickets after a worrying show against England, and the 'Chennai Super King', with his double hundred, has announced his arrival as a serious No 6
Both performances are also great news for Indian cricket going forward. I must confess, with Ashwin, I was concerned where his Test career was heading after the England Test series. Did he have the intelligence to learn from his mistakes? What I am talking here is his cricketing intelligence, not the academic intelligence that we know he has; he is an engineer by qualification.
In fact, academic intelligence can often work against you in sport, for you will have a tendency to over-think and complicate a simple game. By learning from his mistakes so quickly post England, Ashwin has showed that like Rahul Dravid, he too can apply his overall intelligence to sharpen his cricket skills.
Learning from mistakes
In Chennai, he did everything that he did not do against England. He bowled his stock ball, the off-spinner, a lot more, cut down on his variations, and most importantly, did not under cut the ball while releasing it.
Under cutting the ball works superbly in T20s and 50-overs cricket, as the batsmen get a flatter trajectory and find it difficult to get under the ball to hit those massive sixes, as the ball is not bouncing much. What also happens in T20 and 50-overs cricket is that an off-spinner will often bowl the middle stump line that big hitters find difficult to hit sixes off. But when it's flighted outside the off stump, the big guys jump on that line as they get a chance to free their strong arms. This line is suicidal in T20, but considered ideal and even attacking in Tests.
So you can see how the different formats are often working against each other, making this game even more challenging for modern day cricketers. Ashwin plays all brands of cricket and that he was able to quickly unlearn his limited-overs skills against a major opposition in Tests was quite remarkable.
With the batting now in transition, Indian cricket needs Dhoni the batsman badly. With the impending overseas tour, Dhoni's self-confidence as a Test batsman and his evolving batting mechanism is a real boon.
The writer is a former India batsman (PMG)
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