IPL, Player spotlight

Ashwin 2.0

It was Delhi Capitals vs Mumbai Indians, a riveting clash between 2 indomitable titans of the IPL.

The victors will be gifted the coveted place in the grand finale and a chance to propel themselves into instantaneous stardom. The defeated will be banished to the unpleasant prospect of yet another playoff and their title hopes will tragically disintegrate by the second.

The stakes were high…

The 1st over was flayed for 15 courtesy Quinton De Kock’s imposing dominance. DC needed to retaliate and fast! A game of T20 can shift to winnable to unwinnable in a mere matter of a few overs and that is the last thing DC would wish for. Delhi needed a hero. Enter Ravichandran Ashwin:

Ashwin stood composed at the top of his mark with his eyes firmly set on the looming presence of Rohit Sharma, who was set to receive his 1st ball. He set off on his run up and proceeded to deliver a truly sensational delivery.

It fizzed. It drifted. It dipped. It spat. It turned. And most importantly, it comprehensively deceived Sharma. He tentatively poked in vain as the ball thudded into the pad. Ashwin let out an ear piercing appeal in recognition of the vast enormity of the scalp. His efforts were duly rewarded when the umpire’s finger went up and Indian powerhouse Rohit Sharma was sent to the pavillion. Ashwin had single handedly dragged DC back into the contest and resurrected his T20 bowling credentials…

Ashwin burst onto the scene for CSK and cemented his position as one of the most promising spin bowling talents in the world. Typically entrusted with the powerplay by MSD, Ashwin offered an mysterious concoction of DIY carrom balls and arm balls coupled with prodigious drift and turn.

Batsmen across the T20 circuit couldn’t decipher his tricks at all and this was evident when Ashwin ended up as the highest wicket taker in the 2010 Champions league Twenty20 (remember that tournament1) and was even named man of the tournament.

The world of cricket was Ravichandran Ashwin’s oyster and he had the raw talent to achieve anything in the gentleman’s game.

After some consistently exemplary performance for India in limited overs cricket, the selectors decided that Ravichandran Ashwin was ready for the arduous nature of the 5 day game and he was handed his test debut in 2011. The rest, as they say, was history…

Ashwin established himself as the undisputed world’s best test match spinner at an astonishingly rapid pace. He utilised his unerring control of line and length and his outstanding grip of spin bowling’s minute nuances to zoom to an astonishing 365 test wickets in just 71 matches. In subcontinent conditions, he was a force to behold and still is today.

Ashwin was also a considerable threat in white ball cricket but gradually his reputation as an limited overs bowler waned and he was no longer producing the dominant displays he once was capable of routinely displaying. The emergence of the talented pair Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal was the final nail in the coffin for Ashwin the limited overs bowler and he has not played a single ODI or T20 for India since 2017.

A tragic end to a sparkling white ball career…

Despite him being vanquished from the white ball set up, Ashwin continued to ponder about how he may go about resurrecting his limited overs career until he was met with a defining eureka moment. He realised that the exponential success of leg spinners in T20 was a product of the inconsistency and variability that they brought to the table and understood that the elite leg spinners have learned to control this natural variability and use it to their advantage.

Ashwin discovered that controlled inconsistency was the future of T20 ( he even said that “Six well-constructed bad balls could be the way forward in T20 cricket”) and he took inspiration from this revelation, despite being an off spinner, and reinvented his T20 bowling.

Wrist spin is successful not because it is challenging both edges of the bat but because of its unpredictable nature when bowling length. And this makes wrist spin extremely relevant. Now imagine if someone can dish out unpredictable stuff in a very aware manner.”

Ravichandran Ashwin

He began experimenting with bowling the occasional leg spinner or googly to keep the batsman guessing and started to implement consistent changes in pace, angle and trajectory to prevent the batsman from being in rhythm.

Ashwin’s brand new way of thinking has paid dividends in the past 2 IPLs but especially in this one: he has taken 13 scalps at an healthy 25.38 while maintaining a meticulous economy of 7.50.

These are some ridiculous numbers considering his white ball wane in 2017!

Today, against the Mumbai Indians, he has further consolidated his improvement by bowling one of the spells of the tournament so far:

Even after the dismissal of Rohit Sharma, ruthless De Kock and elegant Yadav were in no mood to give DC a sniff as they vigorously counter attacked the Delhi bowlers. Even Ashwin was given a tonking by Yadav in his 2nd over as he got smacked for a 6 and a 4.

The guile and experience of Ravichandran Ashwin was not to be startled as he went onto to display a very clever bit of bowling: De Kock danced merrily down the track in hope for a delivery to come into his arc and go into the stands. Ashwin had other ideas as he tossed up a dipping floater of a ball wide of stump which forced the helpless De Kock to chip the ball into the air and into the waiting hands of a fielder. This wicket is a worthy testament to Ashwin’s incomparable cricketing IQ and street smart tactics.

Ashwin finished on a impressive 3 for 29 but that didn’t tell the full story: he took the ever so crucial wickets of Sharma, De Kock and Pollard and was the sole source of control for an erratic DC who, in the end, deservedly lost.

As implied earlier, what I am most impressed by Ashwin is his incredible knowledge of the game and his willingness to adapt to whatever is required for him to become effective. I do believe that controlled inconsistency will become a hallmark for elite T20 bowlers and Ashwin will be a pioneer for this artform.

However, for the time being I seriously believe that ,with a couple of T20 world cups looming upon us, that India should begin to consider Ashwin 2.0’s controlled unpredictability in T20s as I am certain that, if selected, he will be an outstanding addition to the playing XI.

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