It’s a tough wicket to bowl on: Ashwin
Bengaluru, Sep 2: The Indian spin duo of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha has been taking turns to bamboozle the New Zealand batsmen. After Ojha bagged a five-wicket haul in the first innings of the ongoing Bengaluru Test, it was his spin partner who achieved the same feat to prevent a huge fourth innings target.
Ashwin bowled magnificently on a Day 3 track that didn’t have much in it for the spinners and came back to the pavilion with figures of five for 69 in 22 overs. But it wasn’t only with the ball that the off-spinner contributed. Before marking his bowling crease, Ashwin took his batting guard. He scored an unbeaten 32 off 40 balls with five boundaries and added 33 runs with Umesh Yadav for the 10th wicket to take India within 12 runs of New Zealand’s first innings total.
In a chat with bcci.tv after the day’s play, Ashwin analysed the behaviour of the wicket from both a bowler and batsman’s perspective and said that India would be comfortable chasing up to 250 runs in the fourth innings here.
It was a bit of a role reversal between you and Ojha today.
Yes, it looks like it. But it’s all for the good. We had to deliver and pull them out of a score and it just happened. The wicket wasn’t helping much and it actually slowed down a bit, making our work a bit tougher.
What was the rationale behind Ojha getting the new ball instead of you?
It was just the case of bowling a left-arm spinner against the right-handers. Turning the ball away from the right-hander always gives him an edge. When you bowl with the new ball, if it skids, it hits the pad. Those are the advantages a left-arm spinner brings into the game when a right-hander is opening the innings.
Was the ploy of introducing spin early on an attempt to play on the minds of the batsmen?
I don’t think it came from there. With the Indian wickets, they slow down as the game progresses. So if at all there is some spin to be extracted, it is from a damp wicket early on. A spinner benefits from the moisture in the wicket as much as a pacer does. That’s where the decision comes from.
How much harder did you have to work for your wickets here as compared to in Hyderabad?
The track in Hyderabad had some spots on it and some variable bounce. The ball went up and down when it spun and it split on the batsman as well. This is a much flatter wicket and it’s getting slower each day. I think it’s going to be much easier to bat in the second innings than it was in the first innings. But the cracks are widening up a bit, so we might see some uneven bounce as well.
You batted and bowled today. Which one was tougher?
Nothing in cricket is easy. Both situations were very crucial. While bowling, we knew that we had conceded a lead of 12 runs and it was more or less a one-innings match from there on. In the first innings, there was much more speed on the ball, but it became very dead and docile in the second innings. That was hard work in terms of bowling. While batting too, I was caught in a bit of a brick in terms of not knowing when to actually go after the bowling and also lost partners at the other end. I thought Umesh [Yadav] did a very good job and we put on some crucial runs in the lower order and got the deficit down to 12 runs.
On the same track, Tim Southee, a pacer, dominated for NZ and for India it was the spinners in you and Ojha. How do you look at that?
Umesh bowled really well in the second innings and got us a couple of early breakthroughs. I think it depends heavily on the length you bowl. Obviously, the overhead conditions played a big role. Today was the hottest day and it didn’t give as much of carry as it did in the morning. Although it wasn’t overcast today, the morning wicket must have had some sweat from yesterday’s freshness.
What total would the team be comfortable chasing down on this track?
I think we still have to pull out that one wicket and not give too many runs away. Any score in the fourth innings is challenging. But as long as we keep it under 250, we’ll feel comfortable.
As a bowler, what does it do to your psyche to see a completely new slip cordon?
Most of the players who have taken over the close-in positions, must have fielded there for their state teams. It’s very natural for an Indian batsman to stand close-in and take catches. And I thought some of the catches that have been taken in the series so far have been fantastic. So, there’s nothing to complain about.
And how does it affect your bowling when you have men around the bat?
It has more to do with the situation in the game and the conditions. We had around 430-odd runs in the bag in the first Test and we could afford to surround them with close-in fielders. It also depends on the approach of the batsmen – in this Test, they were a lot more positive and we didn’t have that bounce that we did in Hyderabad.