Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, along with Hanuma Vihari, pulled off a heroic effort on the fifth day of the Sydney where he battled unrelenting physical pain and unbearable mental stress to help his team pull off one of the greatest draws of al times.
Ashwin, who has been brilliant in the series with the ball, played the innings of his life as he gritted it out for 128 balls for his 39 in what was a perfect display of character by the champion cricketer.
And, he had done that amid excruciating back spasms leading into the fifth day. Ravichandran Ashwin’s wife Prithi Narayan has revealed what the off-spinner was going through in the lead-up to what she termed as the ‘innings of his life’ in an article for the Indian Express.
“It had been a tense morning. Over the years, I have seen him handle pain and know he has a high threshold for it, but I had never seen him like this. He was crawling on the floor. He couldn’t get up or bend down. I couldn’t imagine how he was going to play and the snack-break comment was said only in half-jest. As he was about to leave, he said, ‘I have to play. I have to get this done’,” Prithi wrote.
“The first signs of trouble had come the earlier evening, at the end of the fourth day’s play. I had seen him on television in some sort of pain a couple of times. When he walks into the room, he usually has just a few minutes before he rushes to the physio or masseur table and then meetings. if any, and comes back late. ‘Are you fine, physically?’ I asked him and he shot back, ‘Didn’t you see me bowl?!’ and said he felt he had a tweak in the back that was beginning to hurt. He felt during warm-ups that morning that he stepped awkwardly and did something to his back.” she added.
Prithi further added that as the fourth day went by, Ashwin’s pain has increased considerably and she had begun to wonder how will he bat on the final day as a bruised and battered India battled to save the Test match.
“It had slowly begun to act up as the day progressed. He went to the physio. Ashwin was wracking in pain, and I knew other players too were injured. The match was still alive, and I was wondering how these guys were going to do it. As family members, our emotions are wired differently – we see them at close quarters, pain and emotion and the abnormal desire to compete and win is something I have tried to get used to, but I don’t think I will ever be able to understand it completely,” Prithi added.
However, as Ravichandran Ashwin had told her that he wanted to get the job done amid all the pain, she should notice that unrelenting desire on her face as she saw him standing in the dressing room corridor throughout the 4th wicket stand between Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant.
“I could see Ashwin standing in the dressing room corridor or pacing up and down on television. I knew it must be because he feared if he sat down, he couldn’t get up. That racked up my worries a bit. When Ashwin was walking out to bat in pain, I was thinking ‘How these guys do what they do, only they know,” she added.
Prithi Narayan also revealed how there was an amalgamation of emotions when Ravichandran Ashwin came to the room following the heroic act.
“I would never forget the surreal moment when Ashwin walked into the room that evening. We laughed, we cried, we laughed. We didn’t know how to react. And we howled. It wasn’t an euphoric cry – that was after the Melbourne win in the second Test. That had a different feel. I had rarely seen him that light, that bouncy, that delirious.” she added.