Happy Birthday R Ashwin
Happy Birthday R Ashwin: We are going through the biggest change in cricket. The game is vastly changing into a purely entertainment based franchise. In these circumstances, the only way to grab quality headlines (not based on social media reels) for a player is to bring traditional aspects of the game like Mankading and Carrom ball in the open.
If and when he will retire, Ravichandran Ashwin will be remembered exactly for that.
Launched himself into limelight from IPL
Born on this day (17th September) in 1986, (we wish Happy Birthday) Ravi Ashwin was a batsman to begin with. Soon, he realized that this is not something which will take his career forward. Being tall, he had the option to be a fast bowler, just like his father.
But Ashwin decided to use his height to generate more bounce on off-spin deliveries. His mastery of trajectories and precise measurements in engineering classes catalysed his talismanic rise as an off-spinner.
World first got to see the glimpse of his talent in the IPL 2010. Playing under the tutelage of MS Dhoni for Chennai Super Kings, Ashwin showed his mettle by choking the high calibre players in the tournament. He played 12 matches and astoundingly bowled his full quota of 4 overs in every match.
At the time when established bowlers were finding it tough to adjust to the tempo of the format, Ashwin conceded merely 6.10 runs per over. His bowling average was also a meagre 22.53.
Initial tryst with limited overs squad
On the back of his IPL performance, he was selected in limited overs format for India. Ashwin’s journey with the Indian team was not that swift to begin with and initially Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja were preferred over him. Later that year, he went on to become leading wicket-taker in Champions league as well.
This prompted selectors to give him a chance against New Zealand. Under Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy, Ashwin was leading wicket taker of the series and helped India whitewash New Zealand with the margin of 5-0. Being a spinner, he performed remarkably in power play overs, aptly hailed by Gauti as “find of the series”.
Role in World Cup and Champions trophy win
Few months down the line, Ashwin was the part of India’s world Cup team. In one way, he was the main catalyst of India’s win in the Quarter final against Australia. Shane Watson was all set and had played 38 balls. He was just about to unleash himself, only to be bowled by clever Ashwin.
The wicket derailed Australia’s plan of accelerating and confined them to 261, which was an easy chase for India. Ashwin continued his exploits after the world cup as well and helped India win the 2013 Champions trophy.
Better alternative than Harbhajan Singh
Simultaneously, Harbhajan Singh was losing his sheen as off-spinner. He was finding it tough to balance T20 and Test requirements. The Indian team decided to try Ashwin, a limited overs specialist by reputation, for Test matches.
The gamble proved to be one of the best in Indian cricket history. He went on a wicket taking spree in Test matches. Ravi Ashwin became the fastest Indian bowler to take 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400 test wickets.
Year 2016 was his pinnacle as he earned ICC Cricketer of the Year award for his meteoric rise. In test matches, he got chances to improve his batting as well and has scored nearly 3000 runs in 86 matches.
Brought back Carrom Ball in the game
The main reason behind Ashwin’s test match success was his fearless attitude. Ashwin never feared trying innovative tactics and variations. Though he is primarily an off-spinner, Ashwin has excellent control over lots of other variations such as leg spin, doosra, leg-breaks, arm ball and Carrom ball as well. Fans of Carrom ball in particular owe to Ashwin for reviving the lost art.
Carrom ball was used for the first time by Australian Jack Iverson in the 1940s and early 50s. The art died for a decade until John Gleeson, another Australian, resurrected it a decade later. However, after him, nobody was courageous enough to try it for a few more decades. In the late 2000s, Ajantha Mendis reintroduced it, but he could not carry the legacy forward.
Around the same time, Ashwin was using his thumb, forefinger and middle finger to dole out the red cherry. He had termed it ‘sodukku ball’ in Tamil. Sodukku means snapping of fingers. Over the years, the ball accelerated the rate at which Ashwin claimed wickets by foxing the batsmen.
Changed the narrative around Mankading
It was sheer audacity and nothing else on the part of Ashwin to reintroduce an unorthodox aspect of the game. Ashwin’s unorthodoxy, in fact, knows no bounds. Apart from Carrom ball, Ashwin also changed the narrative around mankading.
While playing for Sri Lanka in 2012, Lahiru Thirimanewas trying to get an advantage by taking few strides from non-striker end, even before Ashwin finished his action. Mind You, this is illegal and the bowler can run out the batsman.
But traditionally, bowlers have refrained from doing it due to being not perceived as ‘good blokes of gentleman game”. Even someone like Courtney Walsh, a giant of the game, had refused to do it, causing his team to lose a crucial world cup match.
But Ashwin did not and ran Thirimane out. However Sehwag, India’s captain withdrew the appeal in the spirit of fair play. 7 years later, Ashwin being captain of Kings Xi Punjab turned the tide with a no-nonsensical approach to the rules of the game and ran Buttler out.
In spite of facing unwarranted criticism, Ashwin stood his ground in media interactions. His stiffness completely changed the narrative around pseudo-morality of the game.
3 years later, Ashwin’s stand was vindicated by cricket authorities, as Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the rule maker of the game declared mankading to be fair. It put an end to moral policing. It was an apt testament to Ashwin’s grit as well.
Grit is, in fact, the biggest asset which Ashwin has. He does not have the swagger of Kohli, he does not have the style which we normally associate with Rohit, nor does Ashwin have the cool head of MS Dhoni.
But, he has grit and unending confidence on his abilities and hard-work. This is what makes Ashwin special.
Happy Birthday Ashwin!
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