Ravichandran Ashwin is every bit the product of the limited-overs game, having built his reputation in the IPL before rapidly rising to become India’s main slow bowler. But on Saturday, in the third ODI against New Zealand, he and Ravindra Jadeja provided a spin of a different sort, their thrilling half-centuries helping force a tie that gives India hope of saving the series from 0-2 down.
Ashwin is among the most articulate in the India team, but on Monday it was not his maiden ODI half-century that was in focus. He has taken just two wickets in the last six ODIs, all away from home. And he had not taken any wicket in three matches before snaring Corey Anderson and scoring a brilliant 65 at Eden Park.
After Ashwin failed to take a wicket in the first Test in Johannesburg, he was dropped and Jadeja was picked as the sole spinner in Durban. In fact, Jadeja has been more successful with the ball. He has taken five wickets in the same six ODIs while his six wickets in Durban gives him an edge over Ashwin with India likely to field a lone spinner in the two-Test series.
Ashwin, 27, was initially praised for snaring batsmen in T20 with variations, only to face criticism subsequently for trying too much, especially after he failed to make an impact on the 2011-12 Australia tour. And his latest barren run is blamed on his eagerness to save runs by pushing through his deliveries rather than coax the batsmen into mistakes.
Ashwin is used by skipper MS Dhoni mainly to tie one end up in the middle overs, which allows the opposition to keep wickets in hand and give the late charge. But the bowler denies he faces any dilemma and is only playing the role the team needs him to.
"There are certain ways you need to construct a spell abroad. I have learnt that and put that into practice," he said on Monday.
"You definitely tend to be targeted as a spinner away from home… They are going to look for boundaries. You have to be really smart and try and make sure you do what the team requires.
"If there is spin and you are playing with the conditions helping you, then of course there is an opportunity to look to get a wicket but if it is stacked against you then you are fighting against something which is like a wall. You cannot box against a wall."
He dismissed criticism: "I have locked away a few things. I have decided if I am giving my best, and that is all I can do. I cannot go back reading articles and what people are saying about me. It does not make sense."