Ashwin, the Streetsmart Cricketer Outsmarting Himself

Ravichandran Ashwin is probably the last of the street cricketers India will have in some time. Most famous street cricketer of our generation is MS Dhoni in my opinion. The problem is, Ashwin is too smart to be just a street cricketer. He has an excellent international  record built largely at home and a poor away record but it has been just 4 tests abroad and people have understood his utility diminishes considerably. If you’re wondering what betting sites offer the best cricket odds take a look on over at bestbettingwebsites.org.uk and see if you’d like to sign up to any of them.

When Ravichandran Ashwin burst on the IPL scene with CSK, not many had thought he’d be such a revelation on the international circuit. Instead, Ashwin proved many wrong by getting exceptional returns. The issues started propping up when Ashwin started unleashing his variations in tests and allowed momentum to slip. Now, he still used to pick up wickets for fun and had Pragyan Ojha and later Ravindra Jadeja ably assisting him. Since, Pragyan Ojha has been dropped from the Indian test team which traveled to South Africa and New Zealand and Ashwin too has found that the skipper prefers the discipline of Ravindra Jadeja to keep an end tight.

Recently, in the Asia Cup game versus Bangladesh we saw Ashwin in full sleeves and modeling the action a la Ajmal, Narine and the likes. Ashwin’s action looked a poor copy of Narine and while his figures might not have been that damaging, his reputation took a dent. He’d once famously said, “Atleast, I bowl with a straight arm” and that has no standing now, not anymore. All that changed in the next  game and he was back to bowling in half sleeves and got 2 wickets bowling the usual stuff that had done him so much good all these years. Ashwin spoke to Subash Jayaraman in a podcast and told how he’d sneak out during IPL at nights to play gully cricket. To most Indian coaches, it would be a violation as our systems are built on rules made by people with a view of what is right and that is imposed on people.  Most cricketers at age levels never try anything out of the ordinary out of fear that the coach will not approve of it and it might cost him his place in the team.

Ashwin is a brave cricketer. Through the years he’s developed a doosra, teesra, carom ball and so on. Not all off spinners do that. Some like Ojha rely on flight and occasional faster one. Same goes for Ravindra Jadeja, who believes in pitching it in the right areas. This is where I believe Ashwin, the street cricketer developed the deliveries through practice but the issue is, these deliveries are complex and to bowl them with as much accuracy as the conventional off spinner is never going to be easy. The last Indian cricketer with so many variations up his sleeve was Sachin Tendulkar. I’m not making a comparison of their cricketing abilities overall but simply stating that both Sachin and Ashwin have an unnatural love for the game. They unleash these tricks because they believe in doing better than the ordinary. Slow right arm bowlers (SLAs) will tell you their favourite deliveries are those where the batsmen are completely outfoxed in the flight, Right arm leg spinners would have a batsman come forward and get beaten by turn. The last two I mentioned are simpletons, their need for the extraordinary doesn’t arise, they are not very special but they are essential.

Ashwin is special. He wants to play games with the batsman, he wants the batsman to be shocked, he wants to be a mystery, he wants to amaze himself too. Not all bowlers have that kind of vision which Ashwin has. Sadly, the execution of the same isn’t happening.  It won’t happen. Not at an international level where the pedigree of the batsman is also great. He is equipped to play shots to most balls. Lesser batsmen on whom these variations are performed and in nets where these are developed prove to be a mirage of sorts. Empty nets serve purpose to someone like Lasith Malinga because he practices a Yorker. One thing to aim for, one delivery to bowl.

Let’s have a look at the pitch map of Ashwin and Ojha from the 1st test of India vs England in Ahmedabad from the 1st innings to right hand batsmen.

Ashwin had figures of 27-9-80-3. Ojha had figures of 22.2-8-45-5.

 

There was a serious issue with Ashwin letting England off with his variations here and later in the series too. There was criticism on the social media too.  All that changed in the series versus Australia. Ashwin bowled a tighter leash and returned with 29 wickets at an average of 20.10.

This is from the 4th Test match and Ashwin continued the good work in the series by bowling better lines in comparison to the previous series. Ashwin’s figures – 34-18-57-5.

 

 

Talk about lines and in the same series, which marked the debut of Ravindra Jadeja, here’s a pitch map of the same innings. Jadeja returned with a series haul of 24 wickets at an average of 17.45. Figures for the innings were 29-8-40-2.

 

Similarly, Jadeja has found himself as the favoured spinner abroad. Here’s a look at his pitchmap from the recent South Africa – India test match at Durban where Ashwin was dropped. Jadeja returned with figures of 58.2-15-138-6 at an economy of 2.36, cheaper by a run than all the other specialist bowlers in the team.

 

If Ashwin can take criticism and work on it, like he did vs. Australia at home, what’s stopping him abroad? Why don’t the coaches speak to him about it? He plays in the team as a bowler but you’d be a fool to ignore that his contributions with the bat have come in handy as well.  He has 2 test hundreds and averages 39.40. It is time Ashwin sat down and worked on 2 things which have seen him being called for – a. His variations in bowling and b. his fitness.

I wouldn’t have been bothered for any other cricketer. There are cricketers who are journeymen, there are cricketers who are workhorses, there are cricketers who do what the captain asks them to do and then there are cricketers who have the courage to do what they want to do. Ashwin is the last category.

Ashwin may not have succeeded in his aspirations bowling the deliveries he has worked on but he might destroy a wonderful test career and a chance to become one of India’s finest all rounders.