Former India opening batsman WV Raman was eagerly awaiting a call from one of his favourite pupils on Friday evening. During Raman’s successful stint as Tamil Nadu coach, he used to have heated discussions with R Ashwin on his abilities as an all-rounder.
“He always used to say that he is an all-rounder and not just a bowler,” Raman, the current Bengal coach, told HT after Ashwin’s maiden Test ton helped him join an elite club.
Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar, two of India’s greatest all-rounders, too had picked up a fifer and scored a century in the same innings."I used to tell him ‘I will not agree with you unless you do a five-for and a century in the same match thrice in Ranji Trophy’. Now that he has done it in Test cricket, I am waiting for him to call and ask me the same question in jest."
Coming in to bat with India 60 short of avoiding the follow-on, and with just four wickets left, Ashwin appeared so composed that he looked like a top-order batsman.
“He was confident because of what he had done with the ball. If you are a bowler who can bat a bit, and if you bowl well, the confidence rubs off,” said Virat Kohli, who stitched together a vital 97-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Ashwin.
“He was in that kind of space and came out and started playing shots. It was good to have Ashwin scoring at the other end. I could also take my time at the other end.”
Those who have followed Ashwin’s career graph closely weren’t surprised. After all, not only did he represent India under-17 in the Asian Cricket Council’s U-17 Cup in 2004 as an opening batsman, he also has two Ranji Trophy centuries under his belt.
Raman says it remains to be seen how Ashwin is moulded.
“He has certainly staked a claim to be an all-rounder. But as much as it depends on the individual, it also depends on how the team management wants to utilise the player.”