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Ashwin on cloud nine after a dream debut

R Ashwin took nine wickets on the Kotla wicket over three days, making it memorable as the match haul is the second most successful by a debutant India bowler. Nikhilesh Bhattacharya reports. Best match figures on debut for India

india Updated: Nov 09, 2011 02:53 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya,R Ashwin,kotla test

R Ashwin took nine wickets on the Kotla wicket over three days, making it memorable as the match haul is the second most successful by a debutant India bowler, behind leggie Narendra Hirwani's 16-wicket feat, also against the Caribbeans in 1988.

The tall off-spinner won two arguments. He was stepping into the shoes of Harbhajan Singh, and had to quickly prove he was much more than a limited overs specialist. Once that was done, he was unequivocal in his criticism of the surface prepared for the first Test against West Indies.

"Honestly speaking I have never got wickets on such a pitch," said the 25-year-old from Chennai after the third day's play. "It is not my bread and butter as I need spin and bounce. Atleast if there is bounce you can see the ball carrying to short-leg and silly point but there was nothing for the batsmen or the bowlers."

In fact, the pitch made his first morning in the longest format that much more difficult, said Ashwin.

"I didn't feel any nerves, but yes, the body wasn't moving the way I wanted it to in the first few overs (on Sunday)," he said. "I didn't know whether my hip was turning, whether the release was perfect, and all I was doing was concentrating because I have never seen a wicket that is so less receptive to so many revolutions on the ball.

"Frankly I thought I was doing something wrong and contributed myself to it by not moving my hip enough."

By Tuesday, though, Ashwin had found a solution.

"Today I tried to bowl a wee bit quicker and onto the stumps and it paid off… It was just a strategic move to try and increase the air speed a little bit so that whatever little variation and bounce that the wicket could offer, could really pay off."

It certainly did as Ashwin took six for 47 to become the seventh Indian to take five or more wickets in an innings on debut (Hirwani had taken eight wickets in each innings of his first Test, in Chennai).

Test class
One could argue the West Indies batting line-up is not the best in the world, and the ball sometimes kept low on the Kotla wicket. But there were other factors in play. Thanks to a batting collapse on Day 2, India were playing catch-up, and Pragyan Ojha was not as effective as he was in the West Indies first innings.

Ashwin though refused to be drawn into any comparison with the man who has more than 400 Test wickets. "You have given the answer yourself," he told a reporter. "You said a promising youngster (meaning Ashwin). Then what is the bridge between me and Harbhajan Singh. I am a youngster and he is a senior pro and he has done his job and probably when I am given my duties I need to live up to my conscience and do my job."

First Published: Nov 09, 2011 00:44 IST