Taking a fifer, becoming the third Indian to record 700 wickets, and dismissing a father-son combination are all in a day’s work for Ashwin. Ravichandran Ashwin has earned better than to be held back by talk of mismatches, team balance, and facile stereotyping when he should be delivering long, probing spells from one end, baffling batters with his finesse and slick craft.
But life happens when you’re too busy making other plans. But, because Ashwin is so painstakingly pragmatic, he also plans for worst-case scenarios. One such game was the World Test Championship final.
“It’s tough as a cricketer when you have a shot at the WTC final, and you are sitting out,” Ashwin said after the first day of the first Test in Roseau, Dominica, ended on Wednesday. “But what makes me different from another youngster if I end up sulking inside the locker room?” I was physically and emotionally prepared for the WTC final but also mentally prepared not to play.
How do I answer if I’m not playing? How can I ensure that the dressing room is fully operational? Because the most important thing is to win the WTC final. It could have been a turning point in my career, and I could have played a significant role. That’s simply a shame that didn’t work out.”
Cut to the West Indies, to a slow but bouncy pitch in Roseau, and it’s business as usual for Ashwin. Another five-wicket haul, the third Indian cricketer after Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to reach 700 international wickets, with the bonus of becoming only the fifth bowler in history to dismiss a father-son duo in Test cricket, and you begin to wonder what would have possessed India’s think tank even to consider dropping such a matchwinner like him. However, Ashwin appreciates the reality checks.
“There is no human being who hasn’t gone through the highs without going through the lows,” he added at the end of the day’s play, with India putting on 80 runs for the opening partnership after West Indies were bowled for 150, a lead partly built by Ashwin’s 5/60.
“When you have lows, you have two options: you can sulk and complain and go down or learn from it.” I am someone who has always learned from his lows. The most excellent thing that will happen after my fantastic day is that I will eat a good supper, have a pleasant talk with my family, and then go to bed and forget about it. Because you know when you’ve had a good day when you’ve had a good day, there are things you can improve on for tomorrow. So this relentless pursuit of greatness has always served me well. But it’s also been quite exhausting.”
Even at home, Ashwin must usually wait until the second hour of the day to work on the ball. However, the circumstances in Dominica were so favorable that Rohit Sharma hurled the ball at Ashwin after only eight overs. The surface was undeniably sticky, with irregular patches of dead grass barely covering the top layer of red clay.
“There was a little bit of extra bounce, especially from the pavilion end,” Ashwin added. “The pitch’s slope was also such that I was getting bounce.” The turn was significant, but it was also slow.” Ashwin went right to work.
In the first over, West Indies skipper Kraigg Braithwaite showed some aggression by slogging a fuller ball from Ashwin over mid-wicket for a boundary.
West Indies skipper Kraigg Braithwaite showed some aggression in the first over, slogging a fuller ball from Ashwin over mid-wicket for a boundary, but the batters were generally pressed on the backfoot. Tagenarine Chanderpaul, who had a wide stance like his father Shivnarine, buckled under pressure quickly. Ashwin set it up superbly, teasing Chanderpaul with tossed-up deliveries on and outside off till he couldn’t resist the urge to hit him, only for the ball to drift in and keep its line to beat his outside edge.
Brathwaite delivered a tremendous blow in four overs by slicing Ashwin to Sharma at midwicket. West Indies were already in danger after the openers were sent back.
Jermaine Blackwood’s innings were promising until Mohammed Siraj ran in from mid-off and held on to a screamer off Ravindra Jadeja’s bowling to reduce West Indies to 68/4 at lunch. according to Ashwin, it “shifted the momentum” in India’s favor.
Only Alick Athanaze attempted to play Ashwin’s bowling on merit, reading him early and using his footwork to cover the turn. With time, Ashwin began to get more turns on the ball—4.7 degrees after lunch compared to 3.7 before—which prompted Athanaze to play more over the wicket, even hitting a six. However, another attempt culminated in Athanaze’s dismissal as he holed out to Shardul Thakur at mid-on, giving Ashwin his 701st international wicket. To put things in perspective, this is Ashwin’s 271st game. Harbhajan Singh took 707 wickets in 365 matches, whereas Kumble took 953 wickets in 401 games.
Throughout the morning, Ashwin reminded us of his abilities to investigate, attack, set traps, and consolidate as needed. And he can easily do so for an extended period. But the question is more about whether Ashwin will get to play as it is if he wants to keep playing.
He will undoubtedly play in the next Test at Port of Spain, but given how the management has reacted in overseas Tests, Ashwin is not a surety for the upcoming Test in South Africa. And he’s probably aware of it as well. So he is concentrating on what he has the most influence over-his present.
“There is so much cricket these days that it is critical that we stay in the present.” I was disappointed by what happened in the WTC final. We’ve already lost twice in the finals. “With the new cycle beginning, it was critical for me to start the series on a positive note,” he explained.
“I began as a Test cricketer in 2011 and a one-day cricketer in 2010.” Looking back on my career, I’m amazed at how rapidly time passed. Rahul (Dravid) bhai usually says it’s not the runs or wickets you remember but the entire game. Only the beautiful memories you will have with the team will remain with you. That has my full support. I don’t know if he brainwashed me into doing it.
“From my perspective, I believe the journey thus far has been so quick that I have been unable to recall what has occurred and how it has transpired.” But I’m grateful for what the game has given me. I’m still determining how many more of these moments are in store for me. But I’m looking forward to every one of them. I promised myself after Covid that I would enjoy my cricket. I have to enjoy myself, whether dropped or playing, retiring or anything else.”
Visit IPLWIN for more latest news in cricket