New delhi(PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday congratulated the Indian cricket team for its…
South Africa might have blown India away in the T20 and ODI series, but they still seem wary going into the four-match Test series starting in Mohali on Thursday.
It’s not because of India’s new-found obsession with turning tracks, but an individual.
It isn’t the spin of Amit Mishra or Ravindra Jadeja. It also isn’t the daredevilry of Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma. It’s a quiet chap called Ravichandran Ashwin.
Time and again the South Africans have spoken about how the Tamil Nadu offie will be the key man to tackle if they are to win the series. It was no different on Monday. South African batsman Faf du Plessis didn’t have any qualms in admitting that Ashwin will be a big threat for them.
“He is an outstanding spinner but I feel we played him well (in T20s). Now, it’s a case of Test cricket. With the conditions, he will get a little more turn,” he said. “Ashwin is our main threat, but we will plan really well. The way we play Ashwin in this series will definitely determine our success in this series.”
A statement like this coming from the opposition camp could be a big confidence booster for the under-fire India team, and the man himself. Ashwin suffered a side strain during the first ODI in Kanpur. Ashwin, however, bowled and batted in the nets during training in Mohali on Monday, and it seems he is well on course to take the field in the first Test.
With 95 wickets in 15 Tests, Ashwin has been a force at home. Question marks were raised about his abilities when he struggled for wickets overseas between 2013 and 2014. But the 2014-15 Australian tour changed things, and he is now back doing what he loves the most: pick up wickets.
A five-wicket haul against Bangladesh in the one-off Test was followed by a Man of the Series performance in India’s 2-1 series win in Sri Lanka, in which he picked up 21 wickets in three Tests.
A good spinner can flourish on the turning Indian tracks, but it’s noteworthy that the Proteas are only talking about Ashwin and not Mishra or Jadeja, who took a whopping 37 wickets in three Ranji games. So, what is that makes Ashwin so dangerous these days?
“He has transformed himself as a bowler,” former India left-arm spinner Murali Karthik said. “Ashwin of the past and Ashwin of now is different. He has a lot of variations. But he has been bowling a lot of his stock ball, which is off spin. How much ever you use your variations, it is your stock ball that often gets batsmen out. It is your strength,” he added.
Karthik felt that the transformed Ashwin is turning the ball well.
“He is getting the turn, which is important for an off-spinner. He is also keeping that attacking line of outside the off stump. On top of that, he is getting his length right. Getting variations on that length and change of pace has been quite effective for him,” he said.
Elaborating on the technical aspect, Karthik added: “He has got a deceptive action. He is using the shoulder more and hitting the crease better than before. He is bowling with good flight too.”
Ashwin also seems one of those bowlers who love evolving and think deeply about their game.
“He thinks about wickets in all formats,” Karthik said. “Moreover, he is economical too. Every game at the highest level is high pressure and Ashwin is a confident guy and believes in what he does.”
With the kind of form Ashwin has been in lately, he is likely to continue in his role as India’s match-winner in the longer format. Should the South Africans wary him?
“Why not?” Karthik shot back.
ASHWIN IN NUMBERS
Mat Wkts BBI SR 5w/10w
15 95 7/103 51.1 9/2
13 50 6/46 67.5 3/1
Last 1 year
7 38 6/46 50.1 3/1
1 0 – – 0/0