Ravichandran Ashwin

Two Timelines, Deja Vu and Ravichandran Ashwin: The tale behind India’s famous draw at Sydney

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The timeline is 2007/08 

Tamil Nadu Under-22s have lost initiative and are under pressure against Hyderabad in a four-day group match. Bowling first in a rain-delayed game which began around Tea on the first day, they had conceded a total of 350 even after pulling things back late. Eventually this had become a 50-run first innings deficit, a healthy lead. They had to face an assault by Hyderabad batters in the 2nd innings to be left with a mountain to climb in a deteriorating fourth day track. Having seemingly secured five points, which both teams would’ve taken at the start, Hyderabad have challenged TN to chase 306 runs in 78 overs.

The Influential Moment

As the Tamil Nadu team huddles before the 4th innings thinking about saving the match, one Ravichandran Ashwin in his early tweens quips that they should go for the win, what’s the point in drawing & playing for two points being his logic. Such is his determination and confidence (even back then) that it influences the teammates to get on board almost instantly, eventually the coach & captain too. The whole XI had copped some intense sledging throughout the match till then, with the opponents resorting to one-on-one mocking and personal insults about their cricketing abilities. Maybe that is playing on their minds and the Ashwin quip is the final push they need.

Also Read: AUS vs IND: Ashwin was communicating with me as an elder brother, says Vihari

Tamil Nadu go for it with conviction, a boundary of the first ball sets it all rolling. They take it few runs at a time, all along not wavering from the goal. As the innings progresses wickets do fall, and with a bit more than a 100 to get, in walks Ash. With positive stroke play he keeps his team in the hunt with courage, even braving poor visibility. Such is the TN determination, that even the option of walking off due to bad light is brushed off. Eventually they get close to the target. With 6 runs to win, 2 wickets in hand, and vaguely able to spot the ball, Ashwin goes for a big one and connects. Tamil Nadu have won in the last over of the game and he has gone berserk in happiness. He had told his non-striker that he was gonna play a slog and to cross over if he got out, block the next ball and take bad light. (He exactly knew how to play by the rules even back then)

The timeline is January 2021 

India have lost initiative and are under pressure against Australia in Sydney. Bowling first in a rain-delayed match which began around Tea on the first day they had conceded a total of 338 even after pulling things back late. Eventually this had become a 94-run first innings deficit, a healthy lead. They then had to face an assault from Australia in the 2nd innings to be left with a mountain to climb in the final innings of the game. As the openers walk in with 406 to get, India decide to play proactively without thinking of just saving the match. They get off to a good start to set the ball rolling, but lose 3 wickets along the way.

The Influential Moment

A young wicket-keeper batsman battling an injured elbow walks in, absorbs pressure and then blazes the ball around to change the flow of the game. Rishabh Pant, apt to his first name which translates to bull, had shown strength and a touch of aggression. Such was his determination and confidence that it influenced the rest of the players to approach the innings more positively.

Also Read: As a spinner playing overseas, passages of play need to go your way: Ashwin

Even the dogged Pujara is looking more positive, and that stays even after Pant gets out. He gets 3 boundaries in an over off the opponent’s best bowler almost as soon as he had lost his partner. But he too falls to a peach, and with a bit more than a hundred to get in walks one Ravichandran Ashwin, all of 34 years old to join a batsman with a torn hamstring in Vihari. He himself is suffering from a very dodgy back, it is a combined pain level at the crease that shoots through the non-existent roof. One had been unable to sit or stand straight due to unbelievable pain since the previous evening, the other under pressure for his lack of runs and also in a lot of pain from early in his innings. If they are to go forward, it would require a lot of character.

Ashwin gets sledged, mostly one-on-one, and at one moment the opponent resorts to personal mocking, insult almost. The Indian lower order bat had shot with a comeback earlier which seemed to have rattled his counterpart. This is not the Ash of the previous timeline, not even close. He is calm and composed even in retorting to a sledge.

Different Timeline, Similar Principles

The 2007/08 timeline is mocked in this one with irony, as the Indian lead spinner’s partner is from Andhra Pradesh, the state of the city of Hyderabad – the bitter rival from years past. To add insult to that timeline’s injury, they are conversing in Tamil, obviously the language of Tamil Nadu and a couple of times in Telugu, the language of Andhra.

Everything seems different in the current timeline doesn’t it? But it isn’t really so. There is a clear undertone of sheer determination and the art of battling under pressure that’s the same. It is the same confident Ashwin, though he’s a champion International player. It is the same courage and bravery shown by batters, though it’s Test Cricket in Australia which requires much more of that than an U-22 game.

They bat with the same sheer focus on the goal to be achieved, though the goal is a draw and not a win. The resolve shown is the same, though it stems more from commitment and a possibility of saving the game for the country, than the desperation to give it back having copped a fair bit.

Now back to the game, Ashwin and Vihari show a lot of restraint, and eventually take India home to a draw. They had been taking it few balls at a time until close, and after 40 overs of the same, they had eked out a famous draw for India. It might not have been a victory for Ashwin and his team like the 2007/08 timeline, but it sure did feel like one – for him, the team and every Indian fan.

THE LESSON

There are times in our lives when we don’t know the real magnitude of a situation that we find ourselves in until well after the effect. We don’t know how it prepares us for something more in the future or even that it does. For Ashwin, that realization would’ve come as India came onto bat in the 2nd innings with a tough task ahead of them. Though he describes the Under-22 game as a turning point in his career, the absolute magnitude of the situation he found himself in back then would’ve struck him – How an age-group game more than a decade ago prepared him to almost his finest moment out in the sun with the bat.

{Excerpts from the Tamil Nadu Under-22 match taken from Ravichandran Ashwin’s YouTube video after the Sydney Test}