India vs West Indies: Clearing away cobwebs of doubt, chance for Ravichandran Ashwin to star in lead role, again
Against West Indies, he has played in 11 matches and has picked up 60 wickets at an average of 21.85 and with a strike rate of 46.2.Updated: Aug 22, 2019 17:45 IST
For in this never-ending, jarring hustle, masses sprint ahead, they pause and blink - what was appealing today quickly transforms into something appalling. In the fickleness of measuring success, what works for you today, could well be meaningless tomorrow. And thus, when Ashwin was spinning a web around England, Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh in home conditions, he was successful, but then the masses blinked, and the plethora of skills which were appealing transformed into apprehensive when India visited England and Australia.
Bear in mind, that in both the series, India needed their star spinner to stand out, but well, despite the will of the mind, the body failed him and he was forced to sit out. Kuldeep Yadav is enamouring with his mystery and Ravindra Jadeja is a package which cannot be swept under the carpet – so where does that leave Ashwin.
In the practice match, he did not bowl in the first essay and Kuldeep Yadav bounced in and picked up three wickets. There is constant chopping and changing in India’s Test teams, and as the team prepares for the first match against West Indies, the focus is once again on Kohli and his two choice of the two spinners.
For starters, what could work for Ashwin is the fact that his numbers against West Indies – both home and away are outstanding and for all the numbers and vagaries of Kuldeep, the management will still stick with the offie. But, then, it is indeed resting on past laurels and for Ashwin, the bell is tolling not too far away.
Against West Indies, he has played in 11 matches and has picked up 60 wickets at an average of 21.85 and with a strike rate of 46.2. The last series India played in West Indies was back in 2016, he claimed 17 wickets and was the Man of the Series. Back then, he had raced away to 350 runs and well, all the tricks were bearing fruits.
And then, the rut started. It was never more contrasting than when India faced England in Southampton. Moeen Ali was drafted into the side and he outbowled R Ashwin, the primary spinner in the Indian side. With hands on his waist, he looked on, forlorn as the England batting kept milking him. On the same pitch, Moeen got the ball to bite off the surface. Appealing became Appalling and success had transformed into countless doubts.
For he might struggle to find his groove with the ball, but with words, there is clarity in the way he speaks. When he was sidelined for the final match of the series, he did say that not playing enough cricket did not help his cause – well, it was basically saying that his absence from limited overs cricket impeded his progress in Test matches.
He was the star when India scripted a memorable win in Adelaide, but once again, the star dwindled as the body failed him once again. And Kohli, who was set a yardstick for fitness, did not react to what was happening entirely happily. So Jadeja came in, Kuldeep came in and away from the glare, Ashwin was working on his body in the nets.
As India flew across to World Cup, Ashwin jetted off to play for join Nottinghamshire for the second half of the county season. It was another attempt to boss the body and force the mind to follow suit. This sojourn, though brief, was successful. In 3 matches for them, he picked up 23 wickets at an average of 19.91. He did not disappoint with the bat either – and scored 197 runs in 3 matches.
He came back home to take part in the Tamil Nadu Premier League and bowled leg spin and bowled deliveries without even rolling his arms over. It was quirky, it was Ashwin trying to switch off from the glare and it was perhaps, Ashwin, trying to maybe add few more strings to his bow.
He worked on his body in the gym, he worked on his variations in the off season, he had a taste of different conditions and he spoke all the while. He led Kings XI Punjab, mankaded Jos Buttler, fronted up to all the questions thrown at him.
Kohli might toss the ball to him as the lone spinner in West Indies, but well, for the eloquent speaker, the time is just about right, to be relevant once again. In this Indian team, under Virat Kohli, it is a race, and in many ways, it has become the survival of the fittest in every which way!
First Published: Aug 21, 2019 15:47 IST