South Africa vs India: Ravichandran Ashwin primed to take lone spinner’s role in Cape Town
Assuming Indian cricket team will go with at least a three-man pace attack, Ravichandran Ashwin looks set to be Virat Kohli’s lone spinner in a support role with Ravindra Jadeja down with a viral infection ahead of the first Test against South Africa cricket team in Cape Towncricket Updated: Jan 03, 2018 21:29 IST
Between them, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have taken just six wickets in South Africa. All however were scalped by Jadeja, in the first innings of the Durban Test in 2013 that India went on to lose by 10 wickets. Despite their overwhelming record at home, Ashwin and Jadeja have next to nothing to boast here.
That somehow justifies the talk about seamers from both sides playing major roles while spinners have been almost reduced to an afterthought. In their defence, both played only one Test each, on the previous tour.
In the context of this series though, no wicket-taking option can be ignored. And assuming India will go with at least a three-man pace attack, Ashwin looks set to be India’s lone spinner in a support role with Jadeja down with a viral infection and his fitness to be assessed on the morning of the Test, which starts on Friday.
Not that Jadeja had a better chance to play if he was fit. Such has been the nature of the Newlands pitch that it only starts to aid spinners from the fourth, or in most occasions, the fifth day. But with the strip still wearing a grass cover that might be shaved just a little over the next 48 hours, spinners are bound to have a hard time as the ball may not grip the surface.
Unless some roughs are created. That was exactly where Ashwin was trying to land most of his deliveries while bowling in tandem with seamers and then alone. On Wednesday, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma were the first to have a go at the batsmen before Ashwin started bowling with Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah. It was a clear indication of where Ashwin fits into the bowling attack specific to these conditions.
“It is actually a very important role because you have to support the fast bowlers as well,” said India opener M Vijay, who could be partnered by Shikhar Dhawan in the first Test after he declared himself fit from ankle injury. “If you can bowl the spinners, they can come in big time and get a couple of wickets here and there, it will be a great help for us,” he said.
In Wednesday’s training, Ashwin’s priority seemed to keep a tight line.
Between 2013 and 2017, Ashwin has improved in leaps and bounds, incorporating small tweaks that give him a varied repertoire. But on this tour, Ashwin has to overcome the challenge presented by the conditions. With left-handers Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock in the South Africa side, Ashwin will hope to sow the doubts by spinning the ball away from them. But if he can’t, Ashwin must try to tie them down.