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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

Why R Ashwin is most difficult Indian spinner to handle, explains teammate

Ravichandran Ashwin’s bowling variations are hard to deal with, according to Indian cricket team wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. India face Sri Lanka in a three-Test series, starting on November 16.

cricket Updated: Nov 14, 2017 07:50 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Ravichandran Ashwin will lead India’s bowling line-up in the India vs Sri Lanka Test series.
Ravichandran Ashwin will lead India’s bowling line-up in the India vs Sri Lanka Test series.(AP)

Kuldeep Yadav may have the mystique associated with the art and craft of being a ‘Chinaman’ bowler but it is Ravichandran Ashwin’s off-spin that challenges India wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha most.

Speaking after India’s first training session ahead of the three-Test series against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens --- attended by all barring Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, who reached late on Monday morning --- Saha said in terms of variety, Ashwin has no parallel among India spinners.

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“His (Ashwin’s) variations in length add to the difficulty. Jaddu (Jadeja) and Kuldeep don’t have as many variations,” said Saha ahead of what would be his 29th Test starting on Thursday.

Spinners need to be read right from the hand, said Saha. “If you do that, 50% of the job is done. Only then, do you need to make adjustments depending on the bounce and turn.”

And like with every acquired skill, Saha said he has got better over time in understanding Ashwin. “I do it better than before. We have played against each other in Ranji Trophy and together for India A and India. The more you keep, the better idea you have,” he said.

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Among the fast bowlers, Saha said the unpredictability quotient in Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami’s bowling is higher than Umesh Yadav or Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

“Often, their deliveries wobble behind the wicket. It doesn’t happen so much with Bhuvi and Umesh because they are specialist swing bowlers,” said Saha.

Not among India’s most vocal wicket-keepers, Saha said his feedback is usually routed through the slips. “Since Virat (Kohli) or vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane are in the slips, if I have something to say, I tell them. If they are not, I pass it through whoever is in the slips,” said Saha.

READ | Sri Lanka bowling coach stresses on execution ahead of India series

Feedback on the Decision Review System (DRS) too is encouraged, said Saha. “We do it as a team. Everyone is encouraged to say what they think if they are confident. And it is not held against any player if a review is wasted.”

Two of Saha’s three Test centuries --- 106 against Bangladesh and 117 against Australia ---- have come at home this year. His next highest score was 67, against Sri Lanka in the first Test in Colombo last August.

The last time India played a Test at Eden, against New Zealand in September 2016, Saha hit unbeaten half-centuries in both innings and was adjudged Man of the Match.

With 25 catches and three stumpings in eight Tests this year, he has also showed a safe pair of hands. And Saha, 33, goes into this Test having set a Ranji Trophy record of 10 dismissals in a match earlier this month.

Don’t blame Saha for living in the moment therefore. India’s toughest test will come against South Africa next year but for Saha that is a conversation for another day.

“You can’t prepare for one series by playing another. Each Test, each series is a challenge in itself. We will try to win the first Test and then the series. Then, we will think of South Africa,” he said.

This isn’t exactly from the Pujara school of thought but then, in his own quiet way, Saha’s always been his own man.