A couple of weeks ago, R Ashwin wasn’t India’s first choice spinner for overseas Tests. They said he lacks the patience and persistence required from spinners in pace-friendly conditions.
But over the four days of the Boxing Day Test, he has proved to be India’s best bowler. He has not only embraced his role of drying up runs from one end but has enhanced it by picking wickets. To add to the three scalps he claimed in Australia’s first innings, Ashwin took two more wickets in the second essay in 22 overs while conceding runs at 2.54 per over.
When asked about this turnaround in his overseas Test statistics, the off-spinner said the time he spent on the sidelines gave him the chance to reflect on his game and improve it.
“It’s probably time. I spent a fair amount of time outside the team and it was a very hard time for me,” Ashwin said. “Those eight-10 months were very important in shaping me for the future and improving me.
“I took feedback from Bharat Arun, Ravi Shastri and Arshad Ayub (Team India manager on this tour). They have all been very good to me on this tour. They have helped me along a lot in figuring out how and where I should improve.”
Ashwin put down his performance in the second innings at the MCG to the optimum combination of discipline and imagination.
“In this innings I thought if I could nip off a couple or more wickets, I’d be doing well for the team. So, I tried to use my imagination within the limits of keeping one end bottled up for the seamers,” he said.
“Brisbane had a bit of bounce and I thought the Adelaide wicket deteriorated the most. This one hasn’t deteriorated at all. Here a spinner still needs to apply a lot of imagination to pick wickets.”
For India having Australia seven down for 267, Ashwin credited the fast bowlers for putting more pressure on the batsmen. He was especially impressed with Ishant Sharma.
“I thought our fast bowlers bowled really well today. They bowled their hearts out,” Ashwin said.
“Ishant bowled really well. After the rain break he bowled three spells and all of them were bang-on. Standing in the slip I felt that nicks were going to come but the carry to the slips has also come down.
“We were standing up, trying to create chances but it still didn’t carry much. The cloud cover aided the pacers today but I thought he bowled well in the first innings as well.”
Australia’s lead has already swelled to 326 with three wickets in hand with one day remaining in the Test. While admitting that chasing on the fifth day will be a difficult task, Ashwin said India will maintain a positive outlook towards any situation.
“We are in a very positive frame of mind. We could get them out or they could set a target for us and we are pretty okay with anything. We will take it as it comes,” he said.
“Any score on the final day is going to be tricky. It is going to be hard work but we are up for it. We are here to win games of cricket.”
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