Murugan Ashwin: Shaped by his namesake

Murugan Ashwin and Ravichandran Ashwin have a lot more in common than just being namesakes. They belong to Chennai, speak the same mother tongue and have both graduated from the SSN College of Engineering, albeit at different times. They also share a great love for Tamil movies. It does help in this regard that the junior Ashwin’s father is a script and dialogue writer of renown in Tamil cinema or Kollywood. If anything the major difference between the two is only cricketing, in particular the direction in which the two spinners turn the ball.
But that apart, R Ashwin has had a significant role to play in the rise of M Ashwin ever since he took him under his wing in the Rising Pune Supergiants dressing-room back in 2016. It was back when he was the premier spinner for India across all three formats and his future protege had been picked by the Pune franchise for a whopping Rs 4.5 crore in the auction, despite having played only three first-class matches. Incidentally, it’d been R Ashwin who’d handed his junior teammate his maiden first-class cap. M Ashwin had also subsequently then played under his R Ashwin’s leadership at Dindigul Dragons in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) before being picked for the big sum three years earlier. And it’s a bond that’s only grown stronger over the last month-and-a-half, with the two Ashwins having carried their mentor-pupil relationship to the Kings XI Punjab dugout. And despite their team presently sitting bottom of the pile and having missed out on qualifying for the playoffs, M Ashwin has been Punjab’s few major positives and he believes his captain has had a huge role in it.
“He was very interested in my growth,” M Ashwin tells Cricbuzz. “Whenever I had doubts, I went to him and asked. Still do. He’s been very kind to answer all my questions.”
Former Australian fast bowler Andy Bichel reveals that it was in fact R Ashwin who’d recommended his fellow Ashwin to have a bowl in the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) nets back in 2015, when the leggie first came to be noticed by a number of senior batsmen, including MS Dhoni. Bichel, who was CSK bowling coach then, also recalls how Ashwin had been disappointed in not managing to get the youngster a contract with Chennai that season.
“Ravi Ashwin had him in his corner all the way through, and he’s a pretty good guy to have in your corner. The fact that there was no opportunity for him at CSK must have been a little disappointing for Ravi… that he couldn’t get this young talent into the system and get him a contract,” says Bichel.
It must have been an impressive stint in the nets, considering R Ashwin has always claimed that none of the big-hitters in the Chennai team managed to hit the legspinner for a six.
“They really liked my spin on the ball, my control and the length which I bowled in the nets. They did look interested in me,” says M Ashwin.
Bichel believes it was only the franchise’s apprehension over whether the youngster would be able to take the confidence from the nets on to the big stage that stopped them from roping him in.
“He’d take the ball away from both left and right handers. T We didn’t know whether he could do it inside a packed house on a big stage, and with the scoreboard pressure on,” says Bichel.
A year later, M Ashwin would not only become Dhoni’s go-to wicket-taker at RPS, playing in 10 matches overall, he would also in an unexpected turn of events often bowl ahead of his mentor.“I thought it was more important for me to give him those four overs as in the longer run I need him as a wicket-taking option,” Dhoni had explained his preference of Ashwin back then.M Ashwin lost his way from that point on, but he’s been back to playing a similar role at KXIP, and done so decently well.