R Ashwin is gearing up for a challenging season that starts with a five-Test series in England in July. The off-spinner, who won ‘Special Award for Indian Player of the Year’ at the CEAT awards on Monday night, discussed his plans in a chat with HT.
It was not a good start to the year for you. Even your mentor Sunil Subramaniam had said you had lost your way.
I think a coach must communicate with the player first. I don’t know where we fell out. He was someone who was helping me. Whenever I needed help, I hired him. But with the tight international calendar, you don’t get the time to go back to someone and the drawing board. I don’t know where it (the fall out) comes from and you don’t know who needs the publicity.
You have not been able to find success on foreign soil so far, and it must be playing on your mind…
It isn’t. I have played four Test matches abroad and taken 10 wickets. I am very good with stats and know what people (others) do abroad. There are various factors that determine performance, some of which, like luck, aren’t in my hand. I have been working very hard on whatever is in my hand. Apart from hard work, I think patience is also required.
In New Zealand and South Africa, Ravindra Jadeja was picked ahead of you because of his batting. A case of healthy competition?
I don’t believe in healthy competition. I firmly believe that I am my own competition. If someone does well, I’m happy to take cue from him and work on my game. That’s where it ends. I don’t look behind my shoulder.
A small break now, so what are your plans?
I had a chat with a couple of people who have done well in England. A few interesting things have come out of it. Bowling in a way that they have been doing takes practice. I need to see if it is working for me and find ways to take wickets. There have been times where the team wanted me to hold an end up, which is not my strength. I would like to get back to my strength and start spinning the ball really hard and get batsmen out. In terms of strategy, I have a couple in my mind which I’ll be working on.
A five-Test series in England will be a big opportunity for you to turn things around...
I’m really looking forward to it. Whenever I’ve played in England, I’ve enjoyed it. I had a good ODI series in England the last time around even though the team didn’t do that well. It’s very important that you do well and the team wins.
What do you think is needed for a spinner to be successful in England?
It’s really important for a spinner that the entire team works well. Everyone needs to do his bit and complement others — batsmen getting runs, fast bowlers pitching in with early wickets, etc. For a spinner to do well, he has to have his ears open and learn as much as he can. Have you bowled with the red Dukes ball before?
What is the difference between that and the SG ball?
Bowling with them is also a part of the preparations, and I have been doing that. The Dukes ball swings a lot more. For the spinners it is pretty much the same as it also has a good seam.
Will the five-Test series be challenging, given that the India have not won abroad in three years?
It won’t play on the mind (not winning a Test abroad since 2011). A lot of new guys have come in the team after the 2011 debacle. So that way it is going to be a fresh start. Besides, the experience of players like Gautam Gambhir will be really handy. As a whole it is a great challenge. I am very optimistic.
The team will look up to coach Duncan Fletcher, as he knows England well….
He was very helpful during the Champions Trophy (which India won in England last year). He knows the ground conditions well and will add value.