Indian cricketer Ravichandan Ashwin (2L) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of West Indies cricket captain Darren Sammy (L) during the third day of the First Test Match at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi.
A few years ago, while still playing age-group tournaments for Tamil Nadu, batsman R Ashwin would have fantasised bagging the man-of-the-match trophy on his Test debut. But to claim it for bowling and that too by scalping nine wickets would've been unbelievable. While he kept scoring in age-group tournaments, his bowling improved significantly.
Just when he seemed to have found the right path, his bowling action came under scrutiny. To rectify the issue with his elbow, he started bowling with an 'open-chested' action. It was difficult to bend the elbow without being side-on. He went on to add a slider, carrom-ball and more flight to his armoury. In no time, Ashwin, the bowler, primed himself well.
Off-spinners are the most evolving cricketers. They've deciphered the 'survival-of-the-fittest' like no one else and have developed to stay relevant. While the rest of the bowlers master the art of already-practiced deliveries like yorkers, slower-ones etc, off-spinners are constantly developing new deliveries in order to keep competing. Ashwin's ability to vary between the slider, traditional off-break and carrom-ball has not only been unpredictable but also enigmatic.
Not too many spinners enjoy bowling with the new ball, inside the power-play overs, especially in the shortest format. If they're forced to do so, they become flatter and quicker. Ashwin doesn't sacrifice flight to contain the batsman.
Change formats, but Ashwin wouldn't change his attitude towards bowling. The standout feature of his nine wickets at the Ferozshah Kotla was the line and pace at which he bowled. He enticed the batsman to play against the spin and through off-side, hoping to induce a mistake. He rarely thought twice before tossing up the ball and challenged the batsmen to use their feet to smother the spin.
Mushtaq Ahmed once said that even though spinners bowl a lot slower in the air, they should have the attitude of a fast bowler. Ashwin seems to have lapped up the advice well.