One person, entering the five-match Test series against England under tremendous scrutiny, was India’s very own bowling ace Ravichandran Ashwin.
The record-breaking off-spinner has often been put under the microscope in the past. Subsequently, his numbers outside Asia have often been dragged in several debates. In India, a country so colossally obsessed by numbers, it is indeed hard to be as judicious as Ashwin.
The last time India toured England, the Tamil Nadu spinner featured in just the last two Tests of the series. He featured at Manchester and The Oval respectively.
Ashwin impressed in few of the overs which he got under his belt. He picked up wickets, at a decent average of around 33.
Not to forget…
Earlier this year, the all-rounder (as he would be loved to be called) played a pivotal role in the first couple of Tests in South Africa.
Although neither came in winning causes, Ashwin set forward a stupendous example, as a genuine all-rounder. At Cape Town in the first Test, he played a defiant knock of 37 in the second innings, when the rest of batting collapsed like nine pins.
So, that followed by five wickets in the game at Centurion as he made great use of the bounce on offer. Not to forget yet again, it was his fine supporting knock of 38 in the first innings, which helped India get close to South Africa’s total.
From the shores of Cape Town to Birmingham to the earlier version of Ashwin, he faced the music overseas and now serves as a major difference.
Ashwin is not thinking about the flow of runs from his end. But rather, his primary focus remains on outfoxing the batsmen with his guile. There has been a clear evidence of more flighted deliveries on offer.
To add to that, his pitch map seconds the statement of his increased accuracy, as he bowls far more in the “right” areas.
Now, than ever before. In 2014 at Manchester, many often witnessed Ashwin straying around the leg stump mark in a bid to hold up an end.
However, for India, four years later at Birmingham against England, it was a pleasing sight to witness Ravichandran Ashwin attack viciously against a world-class batsman like Alastair Cook.
Well, introduced in just the seventh over of the match, Ashwin let his class on display. He pitched the ball in the right areas. It wasn’t surprising to see the back of Cook, as Ashwin was clearly a man on a mission. Later in the day, the second ball dismissal of the in-form Jos Buttler was another superb delivery.
From the statistical front as well, Ashwin’s outing at Edgbaston has been quite remarkable. His current figures of four for 60 are his best in countries considered to be nightmares for spinners, including England, Australia, South Africa. (Ashwin is yet to play a Test in New Zealand). His previous best figures include 4-105 in Australia and 4-113 in South Africa earlier this year.
The end result is yet to come. But one can easily assert that the first day of this Test series has brought about a serious source of positivity for the Indians. Watching Ashwin run through a batting lineup in whites, in alien conditions, was what Indians waited to see.
With a series as massive as five games on offer, Ashwin surely will play a great role. He is there to determine the outcome in India’s favour. Irrespective of his eventual result, the champion spinner has once again made his critics eat the humble pie.