While most India players have had a fruitful IPL, R Ashwin is not going through one of the better phases of his career.
The 29-year-old ended 2015 as the world’s number one bowler in Tests but at the turn of the new year, Ashwin has found it difficult to get a grip in the limited-overs format.
Starting with a four-match Test series in West Indies that is scheduled in July, Indian team will play a total of 14 Test matches this year and Ashwin’s drop in form will hurt team’s chances.
In two ODIs against Australia Down Under, he was smashed for over 10 runs an over. Skipper MS Dhoni chose to drop him in the third game. Ashwin disappointed in the T20s that followed in Australia. His performance peaked against a weakened Sri Lanka that visited India for three T20Is, but it came down considerably in the Asia Cup and the World T20, that too in spin-friendly conditions.
In the World T20 semifinal, Dhoni used Ashwin for just two overs. Dhoni, who is also captain to Ashwin in the Rising Pune Supergiants, gave Ashwin very few overs in the initial stages of the IPL.
Ashwin has just six wickets to his credit in 13 games. His average is a dismal 46.50. This has by far been his worst IPL season.
“I feel the by not giving him the right kind of overs and under-using him, Dhoni has taken away some of the confidence Ashwin had in himself,” former India spinner Maninder Singh said. “He had a tremendous 2015 and was your No 1 bowler. This IPL he has been a pale shadow of his old self,” he added.
In 2015, the picture was quite different. Ashwin was at the forefront of nearly every India plan. He especially prospered at home on the turning tracks. In the last IPL, he was not quite among the wickets but kept runs in check. With India playing more Tests than limited-overs cricket in the latter stage of the year, Ashwin prospered on the spin-friendly wickets — his performance against South Africa in the four-Test series, being the highlight.
The IPL campaign for Ashwin is all but over with Pune out of playoff contention. For India, Ashwin still remains a vital cog. A dip in form for him is a worry.
“India play a lot of Tests this year. For India it will be beneficial, if Ashwin returns to form. More importantly, one must hope if there is any dip in confidence, then it does not have a lasting effect,” Maninder said.