‘I made him my obsession for 6 months. Realised I got to him’: Ashwin’s planning that went behind his duels with Smith

  • Ashwin remarked that he made the former Australia captain as his "obsession for about six months".
Steve Smith (L) and Ravichandran Ashwin.(AP/PTI)
Steve Smith (L) and Ravichandran Ashwin.(AP/PTI)
Published on Dec 22, 2021 07:44 AM IST
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R Ashwin is one of India's finest performers in red-ball cricket, having eclipsed Harbhajan Singh recently to become the third-highest wicket-takers among the Indians in Tests. The 35-year-old has so far scalped 427 wickets in 81 Tests and the spinner gave fans a brief about his work module, which certainly explained why he is regarded as one of the best in the business.

Speaking on how he prepared himself for India's previous tour to Australia and particularly Steve Smith, Ashwin remarked that he made the former Australia captain as his "obsession for about six months". The spinner mentioned he observed the batting of both Smith and Marnus Labuschagne very closely without missing a single delivery.

"I made him (Steve Smith) my obsession for about six months, not just two weeks or three weeks. Just footage, just watching different matches. The most recent series they played (before India toured Australia in 2020-21) was New Zealand. I went through every single day's play. I would go on to my app and check - how many runs was (Marnus) Labuschagne batting on when Will Somerville came on to bowl? Which ball did he hit over the cow corner?," Ashwin told ESPNCricinfo in an interview.

"As a spinner, you need to be very precise in Australia. Every run you give must be on your own terms. So whenever Marnus Labuschagne steps out, he hits the ball over cow corner for an offspinner, or he hits it over mid-off. It's very rare through long-on. And he doesn't have a flat sweep, he has a lap sweep, like a paddle. All these shots have a trigger. And it's very fine. If you don't know or if you've not seen enough footage, you cannot pick these things up. And with Steve Smith, his batting is very momentum-driven. Most of his batting comes from his hands, so my whole idea was to disturb his hands through the series. He's got certain hand-movement patterns. You have to pick them and be able to bowl in a way that disturbs his hand pattern. So I bowled with different load-ups, different speeds, different run-ups and all that. I realised I kind of got to him," Ashwin further explained.

Not just Smith, Ashwin also did the same when England toured to India earlier this year. Ashwin made similar observations about England captain Joe Root, making it difficult for the English batter to get a hang of things against him.

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