Being Ravichandran Ashwin is not easy. The off-spinner witnessed a meteoric rise but then suffered a terrible fall in his short four-year Test career. From being the go-to spinner for his skippers, the Tamil Nadu cricketer has faced testing times when he was no longer required in the team.
But the fighter that he is, Ashwin never let that affect him. He instead fought his way back to the top — regaining form and with it, the lost status. With the Test series against South Africa scheduled to commence in Mohali from Thursday, November 5, the focus is back on the off-spinner, who was ruled out of the ODI series after suffering a side strain during the first match in Kanpur.
“The kind of form he is in, Ashwin is the bowler who gives a lot of confidence to the team and also puts oppositions under pressure,” former India spinner Maninder Singh told HT. “He needs to be in the same frame of mind as he was in Sri Lanka and if that happens, India would certainly hold an edge in the series,” Maninder added.
Despite his brilliance at home, Ashwin looked clueless overseas, earning him a home track bully tag. But now he has answered his critics with some descent performances in three Tests in Australia after being left out from the opener. The criticism, however, will only stand him in good stead against Proteas.
“He’s always done well in India, so he will have a big impact in the upcoming series,” said ex-India spinner Arshad Ayub. Ayub, who had spent quite some time with Ashwin during his stint as team manager during the Australia tour and the World Cup, shed light on things which have made the Chennai off-spinner a better bowler now.
“He’s got a much better wrist position now, the loop and turn he is getting now is excellent. He’s got a lot more control which makes him better equipped to bowl on any surface,” said Ayub.
Answer to AB de Villiers
Ashwin cleaned up AB de Villiers in the two T20Is he played, deceiving the South African trump card on both occasions with slower deliveries. His presence in the India team might work wonders as the Virat Kohli-led side will have an option to keep a check on the destructive de Villiers, who so far in the series has looked unstoppable.
“He’s (de Villiers) been susceptible against Ashwin because of the extra bounce he gets due to his height. More importantly, de Villiers and Hashim Amla have been the best players of spin in their team and if Ashwin manages to sort them out, India will definitely have an advantage,” added Ayub.
Ashwin has been quite effective against left-hand batsmen and those skills were on full display when he had the retiring Kumar Sangakkara dismissed four times in two matches. This South Africa squad is replete with left-handers including openers Dean Elgar and Stiann van Zyl, which might just add to Ashwin’s confidence and bite.