In a video series by ESPNCricinfo called the Videocast, Indian off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin had a conversation with commentator and former Indian Cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar about life as an off spinner, T20 Cricket, the role of WV Raman in his life, bowling with the new ball and the future of spin bowling.
Ashwin, the joint fastest bowler to take 350 wickets in Test Cricket along with Sri Lankan off spinning wizard Mutthiah Muralitharan, clearly is not a fan of Test Cricket being curtailed to 4 days, as his words implied, “I am a spinner and you’re taking the fifth day out of the game, you’re taking out a very fascinating aspect of the game.”
Ashwin then went on to narrate his experience of being coached by Woorkeri Raman, the current coach of the Indian Women’s Cricket team. He talked about how disciplined and strict he is and shared the small details he used to point out to improve in Ashwin’s bowling, which helped him immensely when he started playing first class Cricket.
“W.V. Raman who is known to be a straight forward and extremely disciplined man trained us to throw the ball accurately that should land above the stumps. He also maintained that I stand no chance as a spinner if I cannot hit the top of the bat of a batsman every time I bowled.”
Ashwin continued, “In fact, W.V. Raman helped me master my rhythm. He was the first person who with or without his knowledge, inculcated this self-conscious training inside me. He would keep telling me, you’re running 10% slower or you’re running 15% faster. And this put me in a great place when I started playing first-class cricket. And these are the things that I will never forget in my career. But because he was straight forward, a bit dismissive and he could put pressure on people, they started moving away from him.”
Ashwin has one of the best record of bowling with a new ball. Talking about his experience of bowling with the new ball, Ashwin said, “I like a new ball because of the fizz that I get on it. One of my strengths is to be able to put revs on the hard ball as it responds better to the pitch. But I generally like to use the arm ball in first 2 or 3 overs because when you use the arm ball, it challenges both the edges of the batsman and forces him to go across the line which is rendered risky. The others that I use are the floaters that swing, the one that pitches in and goes out or the other one that lands on the seam and gets to go the other way. So these balls become very effective.
“With a new ball I use my middle finger more than the index finger but when I bowl with an older ball, I try and get over the top. Sometimes, I don’t use index finger to go over the top, it is behind and I still put the revs and that’s when the ball actually goes the other way,” he added.
Commenting on the future of finger spin, Ashwin says, “I am really surprised that in the last IPL people could not pick up what I was bowling. They thought I was bowling the carrom ball but actually I was bowling reverse carrom because when I would bowl that I would get a lot out of the pitch. Sometimes it can spin, sometimes I could get it to skid. In T20 cricket, you need to call yourself a bowler. At times you should be able to bowl a bouncer or a spinner. Wrist spin is successful not because it is challenging both edges of the bat but because of its unpredictable nature when bowling length. And this makes wrist spin extremely relevant. Now imagine if someone can dish out unpredictable stuff in a very aware manner. That’s the journey I have taken, and that’s why I found myself amongst the wickets and in extreme control last year when I was bowling in Mohali which can be very challenging.”
Ashwin then went on to talk about how Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan all round off spin bowler, has been able to succeed in the shortest format of the game, due to his impeccable control over the line and length which he bowls. Ashwin said, “In any white ball cricket, you can only hunt wickets down unless people are not picking it, but that is at a very novel stage of your career. Post that you should be able to dish out things at will that can surprise the batsman. Mohammad Nabi is a great spinner in T20 format. He is able to change his line and length at will and that’s because he has done these repetitions in the longest format. If you wake Nabi up at 3 in the night, he’ll be able to bowl at the sticker of the bat, he will then be able to change his line to wider, to closer or yorker.”
When asked by Manjrekar about his future plans, Ashwin, who was traded to the Delhi Capitals from Kings XI Punjab in this year’s IPL auction, said, “I am good at T20 cricket. If my body holds up, I see a purple patch coming up for me in Test cricket.”