Ravichandran Ashwin Puts on Spin Masterclass in Ahmedabad
“I felt like he (Cameron Green) was playing beside the line for everything. The wicket was true enough for him to play against the spin constantly. It was an idea to just shut him down because his head falls over. Yes, that was the plan but not necessarily the way out get him out…,” Ravichandran Ashwin said at the end of the day’s play before adding, “You don’t get a batsman to glove one down the leg-side. I will be happily going back home today taking credit for the plan at least.”
The moment R Ashwin spoke about in the post-match presser was a crucial one in the context of the game. One wicket followed another and India clawed their way into the game after a rub of the green went the hosts’ way and unfortunately not Green’s way.
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The right-hander was dominating. He was unperturbed by whatever India’s premier spinner was dishing out and negotiated him with relative ease, in his own way. Ashwin had figured going outside off wasn’t an ideal plan against Green and wanted to cramp the all-rounder down with some tighter lines. He had it all planned in his head, but wasn’t able to execute it to perfection, however, he will certainly “go to bed a lot happier” with that prized scalp.
For 59.4 overs, Green (114) and Usman Khawaja (180) frustrated India on a very true wicket with the daddy stand. Not much was happening off the surface and batting with the right application wasn’t difficult.
Green’s wicket was Ashwin’s second and he added another in the same over when Alex Carey did Alex Carey things and was dismissed for a four-ball duck. In the space of five deliveries, Ashwin injected some life into a day which was being dominated by batters.
Having seen a fair bit of how Green operates, Ashwin had the “complexities” planned and sorted in his head and it was only a matter of time before he unloaded the bag of tricks and variations.
It wasn’t the surface where the same spot would do different things. It wasn’t Nagpur, it wasn’t Delhi and it wasn’t the raging turner of Indore for sure. It was a true sub-continent wicket with, as Ashwin pointed out, a lot of cut grass, well rolled and a lot of water beneath the surface. The kind of strip which would deteriorate as the game goes on but not a Day 1 turner.
“He has his strengths and you have to stay away from his strengths. Clearly from what we saw in Australia. I played a practice game against him. From there on, have been watching him bat. How well he moves to balls outside off, how well he comes down the pitch and how he sweeps the ball. All these things… as a bowler it’s my duty to keep a check on,” Ashwin shared his observations.
Not just Green, there was a Khawaja plan too.
While Ashwin didn’t get the big wicket of Khawaja, who batted forever during his 422-ball 180, the spinner had a plan worked out for him too. He did manage to execute what he had in mind but Khawaja’s solid backfoot play and no-fuss approach made it hard for even Ashwin to penetrate.
Like the last Australia series, Ashwin varied his load-up during the Ahmedabad Test and had Khawaja doing what he wanted him to but it just wasn’t the day where anything was breaching the rock.
“I felt the pace off the pitch allowed the batsmen to play a lot off the back foot. I did that (load-up change) in Australia as well when we went there during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy last time. One of the purposes is to try and make the batsman miss the pace of it or the trajectory of it.”
“Whenever I bowl with that action, the trajectory is a bit different. Sometimes you do tend to go back to the ball that is slightly fuller which Usman was doing all through the game so that probably was the idea behind it.”
“Wanted to see if I could get more purchase because wrist-cocked this way will get the seam in a different position. All these are the complexities inside my head. However, how it comes out is how the batsman sees it,” explained Ashwin.
For the most part of the innings, Khawaja continued to trust his back-foot play and despite looking awkward on occasions, stuck to it. Since the ball wasn’t going to spin under the nose, it allowed the batters to trust their back-foot defence more than they would have in the previous three games. Even if there was a slight error in judging the length, the true nature allowed the batter to negotiate safely.
‘Better than Bangladesh series’
Ashwin was at it since the opening day. The figures didn’t make an impressive reading on Day 1 but the off-spinner felt happy with the way the ball was coming out of his hand.
From 25-8-57-1 on Day 1, Ashwin produced a masterclass on Day 2 with 22.2-7-34-5 and ended with brilliant figures of 47.2-15-91-6.
After the fifer in the series opener in Nagpur, Ashwin wasn’t amongst the bagful of wickets in the next two Tests but was satisfied with his spells and outings. For him, he was bowling better than he did in the away Bangladesh series.
“No one spell is better than the other. To be honest, I felt at various stages in this series… be it Delhi in the first or second innings. The numbers don’t probably give you a five or a six but the ball has been coming out beautifully in the whole series. Whatever the work I have put in – the change in the loading and action and cocking my wrist. All of those things have made sure that my spells have been a lot more penetrative than they probably were in Bangladesh.”
“I think I wasn’t at my best. However, the smaller changes that I have made ensured that I have got enough purchase from the wicket and the hand. It’s doing a lot more in the air than it did in Bangladesh,” said Ashwin.
Even in this Test, the first day wasn’t a big wicket-taking day but Ashwin felt he created pressure on the batters and it was the sustained effort over two days which helped him reap rewards and return with a six-wicket haul.
“What worked for me yesterday is exactly what worked for me today. Nothing much different. When you come up on pitches like these… I remember my first tour of Australia in 2011-12, I bowled as a spinner would. Put on a lot of revs on the ball, and just spin it harder if things didn’t work for you but what I learnt was that if you have to end with a bag of wickets and come out on the other side, every over must be considered the most important over in the game.”
“What happened today, couldn’t have happened as well but I think I set it up yesterday bowling those 25-26 good overs to capitalise today. It’s a period of pressure and I was able to keep it on the batters for a period of two days,” said Ashwin.
Over to batters
After nearly two long days under the sun, the bowlers can finally put their feet up and cheer for the batters from the dressing room.
These weren’t easy conditions to bowl, and it showed in the manner in which the rest struggled, and now the onus would be on the batters to bat big and put the pressure back on Australia.
Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill hit the right notes in the brief period they got out to bat towards the fag end and would now look to make it big in conditions ideal for batting.
“Tomorrow is a very important day for batting. Our batting will decide how the game pans out. It was a good chance for Australia to out bat us by scoring 550-600 runs but that didn’t happen. We could have too conceded 30-40 runs less but all this is hindsight.”
“Three sessions of good batting… that’s the beauty of Test cricket. We talk about what might happen, what conditions are, what surface is but just allow it to pan out and it could become a wonderful game in the back half. Just hope for a good game of cricket and tomorrow is very important for us,” concluded Ashwin.
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