For India’s premier off-spinner R Ashwin, the Antigua Test is going to remain special for a long time. It is here that picked up his maiden five-for outside Asia after scoring his third century while batting at No. 6 for the first time in his career. A thorough all-round performance, Ashwin was named the Man of the Match in the opening Test of the four-match series in which India trounced West Indies by an innings and 92 runs at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium.
This has been a perfect Test for you. Scoring a century and then claiming seven wickets in the second innings.
For me, the most important thing coming into this game and series was to take a five-wicket haul. To be batting at No. 6 was a complete surprise for me. Virat (Kohli) told me on the morning of the match and I really liked what he said. He told me “Wet trust you and want you to bat at No.6 and see how it works”.
I wanted to give something back to the team. I wanted to show I was good at No. 6 and wanted to lend some solidity. From there on, it was quite tiring innings and I played about 250 balls. I wanted to exhibit how I can bowl after a tiring innings as well, so I was pleased with that.
This is your first Man of the Match award as an all-rounder. You once received on the basis of your batting performance.
Yes, you’ve got your numbers right. I haven’t really given a thought but I always value myself as an all-rounder. Batting at No. 6 there is always more opportunities to get a hundred than at No.8. I have started really well on that. Batting at six, I have managed to get a five-for as well so I hope I go from strength to strength from here on.
Only Sir Garry Sobers and Ian Botham have taken a five-for and scored a century both at home and away. You are now a part of this group.
I don’t know. It is a wrong question that you are posting. You need to be telling me that I need to be proud. You’re joining me with the club of Sir Ian Botham and Sir Garry Sobers. These are some of the biggest names that cricketing world as ever heard. To be really modest and analytical of it, it has taken me five years for me to repeat it outside the sub-continent, that is something I always wanted to break. Getting a five-wicket haul away from sub-continent is something I have worked earnestly towards and I am really pleased for myself.
You got seven wickets in the second innings and made it look easy, but tell us how tough was it to bowl on this slow wicket?
In the first innings, I could not get a good spell going. The fast bowlers were bowling really we had and we had to shortchange with them for roles and bowl and give them breaks. In the second innings, I started bowling and I was constantly in touch with Anil Bhai also about what is the right speeds to be bowling. Speeds were something that was going to be a challenge as the ball was getting softer and as it got softer, it was hard to get the ball going. It was slow and sluggish, so we needed to keep a tab on the speed and also get the drift going.
This was the first Test of Anil Kumble as the Head Coach. Tell us about your interaction with him and how has that helped you to bowl on this wicket?
That is the biggest advantage of having Anil bhai in the dressing room. In the first innings, I went wicketless for about 25-25 overs that I bowled in the match. In the past, that would have definitely troubled me as I am a bowler who likes to keep getting wickets. I kept speaking to him about what I was doing right and what I wasn’t. Obviously, he felt that my body was not going through as it was a little tired. He also told me to slow down a little at the crease. He gave me different ideas about what lines I can bowl to batsmen. It is about the knack of getting wickets and it is a good that we shared today.
Virat Kohli scored a double hundred and the team won but you got the Man of the Match award. It must feel special.
Honestly, I think this Man of the Match award could have gone to Virat Kohli as well. If I had not got a five-wicket haul or if I had just got a five-wicket haul, I would have shared with him, but with seven wickets and a hundred, I felt I deserved it a bit more. But I am sure with the kind of form he is in and the way he is batting, he is going to go and cap it up somewhere on this tour.