IND vs AUS: How Ashwin fared in first ODI appearance at home in 6 years; noted legendary cricketers give their rating
While the 37-year-old may not come out with flying colours, noted legendary cricketers were left happy with his show in Mohali.
First it was Mohammed Shami and then it was Shubman Gill along with Ruturaj Gaikwad that stole the limelight. Yet, somehow, in the match discussion after both the innings of the ODI series opener between India and Australia on Friday at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali, Ravichandran Ashwin's name crept in. There was considerable attention on the veteran off-spinning all-rounder throughout India's first innings, after KL Rahul, opted to bowl first. And why not? For a bowler who made a surprise return to the Indian ODI side with less than three weeks left for the ODI World Cup to kick off at home, with a possible appearance in the tournament on cards as well, making his first appearance in the format in about 20 months, Ashwin had his critics sharpening their knives while his well-wishers had their fingers crossed. And while the 37-year-old may not come out with flying colours, noted legendary cricketers were left happy with his show in Mohali.
Ashwin was far from being in the reckoning for a comeback in the ODI side, given his absence from the format. He last played the ODIs in January 2022, in the tour of South Africa, where he had played two matches, both in Paarl, picking a wicket in 19 overs for India. Those in fact remained his only two appearances in ODIs in six years.
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With Axar Patel, another spin-bowling all-rounder, injured and out of the first two games against Australia, India brought back Ashwin into the scheme of things alongside Washinghton Sundar, who had in fact replaced the former in the Asia Cup final on Sunday last week. The Australia series will in fact serve as a platform for the duo to prove their worth as a back-up option for the spin-bowling all-rounder role in the World Cup squad. And while Sundar, who is also part of the Asian Games squad, got his opportunity in the Sri Lanka, albeit with a no-show as a bowler or a batter, it was Ashwin who was picked for the Friday tie, thus making his first ever appearance in ODIs at home since January 2017, when had played against England in Kolkata.
How did Ashwin perform in India vs Australia 1st ODI?
The veteran off-spinner was introduced into the attack in the final over of the powerplay with India looking to break the second-wicket partnership between David Warner and Steve Smith. Ashwin bowled six overs in his opening spell, conceding 36 runs with Warner and Smith hitting a six against him with Marnus Labuschagne smashed a boundary.
The run-up was tad different from the one we usually see him bowling in Test cricket, although it is something ardent followers of the game and the cricketer have noticed in white-ball cricket where Ashwin tends to try different things in a bid to intimidate the batter, either by slowing or stopping in between his run-up. Ashwin also looked to use the crease to create various angle, especially against Warner, he we sorted of looked to create an angle.
Against Warner, Ashwin went flatter and outside off, keeping it around the good length area. The Aussie managed 15 off 18 balls he faced with a solitary six and nine dots. And against Smith, he went slightly fuller, around the middle stump with tossed-up deliveries and the result was 16 off 13 with five dots.
In his second spell, of four overs, Ashwin, up against two right-handers in Labuschagne and Cameron Green, he stuck to his strategy of flighted deliveries, all around off, and he conceded only 11 runs for a wicket of the former. Albeit a fortunate dismissal, and unlucky one for Labuschagne, who incurred a bizarre stumping after the ball ricocheted off the pads of the wicketkeeper and light the stumps after he failed to reverse sweep against the tossed-up delivery.
Ashwin hence ended with 1 for 47 in 10 overs. And none other than his Tamil Nadu and India teammate Dinesh Karthik perfectly summed up his Mohali performance.
"It was a tale of two halves. At the start, he bowled from the Harbhajan Singh end. He troubled Warner a little. Yes he did not create magical deliveries to get wicket, but he kept him tight, but once the batter got going Ashwin brought his defensive game into the fore and finished his spell with 6 overs for 36. What was beautiful about the second spell was when he bowled those four overs from Yuvraj Singh end, it conceded just 10 runs. Now that is his skill. If you give him new batters, or put him at the start of a spell, he will always be good. He will go for runs, when the batters are set because he is a finger spinner and they know how he is going to turn the ball. If you given him two new batters, he will eat them up alive," he said on Cricbuzz.
- "Good decision by Rohit, Agarkar" -
There were a few fingers pointed at the logic behind India bringing back Ashwin into the scheme of things for the World Cup, but captain Rohit Sharma had shut the talk explaining that despite the bowler being away from the format for months, he admitted that he is banking in the senior player to make the most of his experience in the Australia series. And the legendary Virender Sehwag, in conversation with Cricbuzz, believed that Ashwin has proven why the team management backed him for the role.
"The game was looking easy as long as the pacers were bowling initially. That happened even until Ashwin was bowling. But things became difficult after Jadeja picked that wicket. Ashwin also bowled beautifully. He realised that the more slower ones I bowl, more will the ball bounce and turn and make things difficult for the matter. Jadeja and Ashwin bowled beautifully in the middle and actually made a comeback. So the experience that Rohit, Dravid and Agarkar wanted proved to be a good decision," he said.
Former India fast bowler, Ashish Nehra, who was part of the discussion, agreed with Sehwag and added that the two spells showed why Ashwin will only get better with more game time before the World Cup.
"It is very difficult to judge a player based on just one match but the kind od player that Ashwin is...you brought him back for experience, and the numbers showed that. Yes he did not start off well but he came back strong and when a few wickets fell, he too started to turn the ball and bowl slower ones. In fact he made things very difficult for Cameron Green. Overall, it was a satifactory performance and it showed that the more your play the better he will get," he said.