In conversation with Murugan Ashwin, this IPL auction’s biggest gainer

  • Vignesh Radhakrishnan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 10, 2016 11:31 IST
The 25-year-old leg spinner had been purchased by Rising Pune Supergiants for R 4.5 crore. (File Photo)

Until last week, Murugan Ashwin was just another spinner with the same name as his famous spin counterpart from Tamil Nadu, plying his trade mostly in small tournaments. He had been waiting for a break, which remained elusive even after many brilliant spells.

But this year’s IPL auction changed his fortunes in a matter of minutes. At the end of his turn in the bidding, the 25-year-old leg spinner had been purchased by Rising Pune Supergiants for R 4.5 crore. In terms of how the final price compared to the base price, Ashwin was the biggest gainer in the latest IPL auction.

He was one of the biggest gainers in an auction which snapped up many uncapped players. R Ashwin, who will be his team mate in the new IPL team to be led by MS Dhoni, tweeted his delight.

In this interview, Ashwin talks about his early cricketing days, how he learned from mistakes and overcame lean patches, how he managed to show up in the IPL franchise’s radar, and his long term goals.

On the IPL auction...

Ashwin: The auction started at 9 o’clock and I was glued to the television from the first bid to the last. To be honest, I only vacated my seat during lunch break. At 4 o’clock I saw my name on the screen. Until that moment I was very nervous, I could sense that it was my moment of truth. I expected that someone would pick me because I had performed well this time in the domestic T20 tournaments. But I never expected to go for R4.5 crore. I never knew which team I would play for, but I wanted to play IPL and that’s all.

On the IPL spotlight...

Ashwin: I have been representing the Tamil Nadu state team for the past 12 years. I have played for the state in all the age categories right from under-13, under-15 and under-25. In 2012 I made my Ranji debut but then I had a lean patch for about two seasons – 2013 and 2014. I had to put in a lot of effort to make a comeback. I had a training regime fixed and worked really hard to rectify my mistakes.

READ: Rs 10 lakh to 4.5 crore: Who is M Ashwin, this IPL’s biggest gainer?

It was at that time that I got a call from TVs Mohan sir, who was in charge of net bowling. He gave me an opportunity to bowl to CSK players during practice. I immediately accepted as it was exciting to meet international players and bowl to them. The very first day I caught Stephen Fleming’s eye. Following that, I represented Tamil Nadu in an under-25 tournament in Anantapur in February last year and became the highest wicket-taker in that tournament. That is how all this started.

On how he was spotted and people behind his IPL pick...

Ashwin: I feel it was during the CSK net bowling that I was spotted. There is no one person behind this, but someone must have seen how I was able to control international batsmen. I feel that was one big day for me. I must actually thank Tamil Nadu Cricket Association because they had faith in me and selected me for the Vijay Hazare trophy. In the Bombay debut game, I took three wickets and paved the way for my team’s victory. Then came the Syed Mustaq Ali T20 tournament.

This was the most important tournament of my life. As it was just before the IPL auction, I saw it as a big opportunity to enter the premier league. I was one of the top bowlers in that tournament, my economy was 5.52, which is pretty good for a T20. The franchieses must have seen the stats of this tournament, and that’s how I think I got spotted.

His relationship with R Ashwin...

Ashwin: Both of us studied in the same college - SSN college in Chennai. But he just passed out when I joined, so I never had a chance to play with him in the college team. It was only on my Ranji debut that I first played with him. He was the one who presented me with the debut cap. But he was available for only that match as after that he was selected for the India team. I got to know him very well only during the Vijay Hazare Trophy this year.

He was leading my side for the entire tournament. In the 15 days I spent with him, I learned a lot of technicalities of spin bowling and he advised me on a lot of issues. He helped me a lot which improved my variation in bowling.

About Rising Pune Supergiants and Dhoni...

Ashwin: I feel very excited. We all know how big a player Dhoni is. I’m ready to take up the responsibility. I’m ready to deliver. As of now they (RPS management) have not contacted me, but I’m expecting a call soon.

About his childhood and passion for cricket from young age...

Ashwin: When I was six-years-old I started playing cricket. My mother used to get dozens of balls from Sowkarpet (a Chennai locality) and I started breaking stuff at home. My uncle spotted my talent and suggested professional coaching to my parents. He took me to YMCA coach CA Suresh Kumar, who was my first trainer. He hesitated at first but my uncle and parents were persistent and I finally joined there. Then I joined India Pistons and played nine years for them. Then I moved to Grand Slam Cricket Club and continue to represent them.

About maintaining the balance between cricket and studies...

Ashwin: Both came naturally to me. Until my 10th standard I studied in DAV Public School, Chennai. In the tenth, I scored 93% in CBSE final exams. I then shifted to Santhome Hr Sec School for 11th and 12th. I passed out with an aggregate of 94.5% in my 12th board exams. I got a mechanical engineering seat in SSN engineering college. Even there I maintained a GPA of 8 out of 10. I had great friends who taught me the subjects after I finished my cricket practice, so I never missed out on one because of the other.

About his father ERA Murugan, a famous Tamil writer.

Ashwin: My father has been in the writing field for the past 25 years. At the same time, he was also working as a senior VP in HCL technologies. I learnt multi-tasking from him. I am fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to take up sports.

On his financial position...

Ashwin: To be honest with you, I hail from a middle-class family. My basic needs were always taken care of. But then life taught me a lot of lessons and I started seeing a lot of ups and downs like everyone else. Those failures gave me a boost to perform better and further my career in cricket.

On taking up cricket as a career late...

Ashwin: I started playing first-class cricket only when I was 22. I won’t say I missed out cashing in on my talent in my early days. I have no regrets. Yes, it is true that if I had applied myself more, I would have succeeded early in my career. But I’m happy with what I have.

On learning from his mistakes...

Ashwin: I prefer working alone and I corrected my mistakes through self-realisation. Of course, when I meet coaches I do interact with them, but then I won’t work with them for long. After that I used to analyse my bowling and incorporate their ideas into it. But mostly it was self learning.

On his hopes of playing for India...

Ashwin: I see IPL as a big opportunity. If I perform well in this, and if the selectors feel I have it in me, maybe I’ll represent India one day. But it all depends on this IPL season.

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