With limited-overs cricket becoming an increasingly unfamiliar environment for fingerspinners, R Ashwin has amped up his efforts to remain relevant. Over the past few years, he has been working towards becoming a wristspinner and was confident enough to try those variations in a domestic one-day match against Gujarat on Monday. He finished with figures of 2 for 38 in 9.1 overs as Tamil Nadu won the match by 76 runs.
Ashwin was one of the two top-ranked bowlers in Test cricket when he was given a break from India’s ODI squad. Legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav were brought in to fill the void but now have become an intrinsic part of why India are so hard to beat in 50-overs cricket.
To keep pace with the competition, Ashwin has been practicing legspin himself. “This is part of my plan going into the IPL. I am just trying to build my armoury. I used to bowl good legbreaks with my offspin action when I was playing league cricket in Chennai. Over a period of time, in a search to get my stock ball right, I obviously had to cut out a lot of those things. I had possessed a lot more variations. Having bowled offbreak as the stock ball for almost 10 years, trying to change things around is challenging. But I don’t really settle for anything. At no point in my career, I thought ‘this is it’ and decided to settle for the rest of my career.”
Ashwin said he has largely been working alone. “As of now everything is cooked by me. I try to take feedback from our coaches in my academy. L Balaji has been of great help. First time I was bowling legspin, we were working on some actions on how to gain momentum. How I can make a repeatable action work for me. For example, my arm doesn’t go 45 degrees which is perfect for a leg spinner. I am more upright. I have to adjust my action. It has been a painful ride. One day it will come out well in the nets, and the next day it won’t come out all right. It will be frustrating. I have gone through the entire journey and have reached a place where I can land the ball where I want to.”
The IPL presents the next opportunity for Ashwin to make a case for himself in limited-overs cricket. Although this season, when he goes home to play in Chennai, he would line up as part of the opposition: Kings XI Punjab bought him for INR 7.6 crore (USD 1.18 million approx)
“I was a tad disappointed because I have been here for the last ten years,” Ashwin said. “Literally, I have owned that space around Chepauk. Every time I came on to bowl, the kind of roaring and cheering I got will always stick on to my head. Coming back there, to play against CSK, will probably motivate me more.”