Rising Pune Supergiants have a bunch of Indian bowlers who have single-handedly won matches for the national side. Pacers Ishant Sharma, Rudra Pratap Singh and Irfan Pathan and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin belong to that breed.
However, it is the largely unknown leg spinner, Murugan Ashwin, who has grabbed the attention in the early stages of the tournament. The Tamil Nadu spinner’s wicket-taking has been a highlight of MS Dhoni’s side.
For someone who was only a net bowler for Chennai Super Kings a few seasons ago, life is fast changing for the other Ashwin.
In Pune’s three matches so far, the 25-year-old has made news each time with performances that have vindicated the team’s faith in a bowler with one wicket in first-class cricket for whom they splurged R4.5 crore.
In the first match against Mumbai Indians, the only game Pune have won, he was given his full quota of overs by Dhoni while R Ashwin bowled one over.
In the second match against Gujarat Lions, two of the three wickets were scalped by M Ashwin. Against Kings XI Punjab, he took three wickets while Ishant, Irfan and R Ashwin went wicketless.
Pune coach Stephen Fleming praised him as a match-winner.
“He’s been great, but we just haven’t had the runs on the board to capitalise on that. If we can get another 15 to 20 runs, then his performances could be match-winning.
“At the moment, his performances are keeping us in the game. I’m sure the batsmen would like to create an opportunity where it’s match-winning, then he’ll get the attention.
He’s been bowling well, given his lack of experience. He’s doing everything we hoped he would do.”
Ashwin’s biggest challenge yet will come on Friday against Royal Challengers Bangalore at a Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium pitch that traditionally aids seamers. Spinners will have to use every trick to find success on this pitch.