England v India, 4th ODI, Edgbaston September 1, 2014

Tweaks on action paying off for Ashwin

Having worked on his action during his time out of the side, R Ashwin has achieved encouraging results with a more side-on release

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Working on an action for all formats - Ashwin

R Ashwin didn't get to play much part in this tour until the fourth Test. You could see him sitting in the balcony, reading a book, the earwig radio on, waving to the commentators acknowledging he is listening to them. When not in front of the camera, though, he spent a lot of time bowling in the nets. Not at the batsmen. Just at the stumps. Session after session. Dropped after India failed to win in Johannesburg late last year, he was a bowler on the mend. You got a feeling he was trying to rediscover himself as a spinner. He says he bowled without a batsman to better understand what the ball could do for him, and not "serve" the batsman. Long sleeves were gone, variations were gone, these were just pure offbreaks ball after ball.

Ashwin got his chance in the last two Tests, where it was impossible to judge his comeback purely by results: India batted so poorly bowlers couldn't have given a proper account of themselves. During the ODIs, with India in the contest, Ashwin has got five wickets for 77 runs at an economy of 4, and has a Man-of-the-Match award. It could be seen, though, that the ball was coming out all right in the Tests. There was some drift, some dip, but no runs or pressure to play with. On the eve of the fourth ODI, Ashwin said he could sense he was on to something even during the Tests.

"Even at The Oval I thought I was bowling really well," Ashwin said. "Initially when I started [the comeback] I was a little rusty. But there has been a considerable amount of work that has gone into it. Fifty-55 days of good work. Before that I was working with [Bharat] Arun [now the India bowling coach too] back in Chennai. It has been at least about two months of work on my bowling. We have been trying to get me sorted with my action. Thankfully results are happening, that's the good thing."

Ashwin said one of the most important changes he has made during his time out of the team is no not make big changes. "I used to make bigger changes with my action between formats," Ashwin said. "Now I am trying to make it as subtle as possible. Chatted with my coach back home. With Sunil [Subramaniam, his initial coach]. What we thought was, this action could be efficient in all formats. We have been trying to move from being a little side-on to semi side-on, and being front on if the format demands."

Ashwin said earlier too that during the Tests the focus was on becoming more side-on, and thus more classical. In ODIs, though, he said he waits to feel good before moving more side-on. "I try to be [front-on] when I start [in the ODIs]," Ashwin said. "Then once I start pinning it down, and when I feel comfortable, I play around a little. Getting a little accurate as the format comes through and if the rhythm is all right try [to] move side-on as the spell goes on to extract more from the wicket."

An offspinner becomes more and more front-on when he starts to rely on too many variations. A doosra or a carrom ball is nearly impossible to bowl with a side-on action. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation now. Has he reduced relying on variations now that he is more side-on or has he become more side-on because he has made a conscious effort to reduce his reliance on variations? Ashwin himself remains a touch sensitive when the topic of variations comes up.

"Using variations is something very condition- or situation-based for me," Ashwin said. "It is not like I put it back in locker and close it out. If it is something I feel like using I will use it. Sometimes it gets to me when people say, 'Oh he overused it.' For all you know I am someone who goes by the exact numbers and stats. If I know I haven't used it and people go on and on about it, I get a little mad. That is not the case here."

Ashwin does feel he is in a good place mentally with his bowling now. "Feels really fresh," he said. "Having worked on it, and it is a belief that I had to induce in myself. Which is quite easy for me when I am convinced with something. I got convinced quickly with what I was doing, and from there on it was about sticking with it. Sometimes the results come quickly, sometimes they don't. I am someone who will persevere with it if I have bought into it. I did buy into this. What's happened now is I am really confident of extracting as much as I can from the wicket."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Robin on September 2, 2014, 13:21 GMT

    Average bowler.note the amount ofback foot play by the average Engand players. Also, India should have given away another 50..playing against England isth U-19 Indian team's job.

  • Dummy4 on September 2, 2014, 9:28 GMT

    Future India captain for sure. Tweaks in his action or not.

  • Sathishprabhu on September 2, 2014, 9:24 GMT

    Mr.Gavaskar was spot on Ashwin - He was good and turning the ball in his initial matches, where his action was smooth and simple. After that initial success, he added some variety, not only with delivery but also with action which has been the demon to his downfall. He was doing so many shoulder movements which has affected his wrist position which in turn affected his delivery not spinning enough. And also I doubt, whether the players are willing to learn from the senior players where india has the best spin quartet not very long ago and can take some valuable inputs to improve..

  • Rahul on September 2, 2014, 6:08 GMT

    A good bowler should be judged on his performance in Tests at home and away. ODI's and T20 performances are not the true yardstick to measure the effectiveness of the bowler or the batsmen. In home conditions Ashwin has done reasonably well but his overseas performance is below par. It took the great Anil Kumble many trips to Oz, Eng and SAF to bowl well there. Ashwin is a smart and thinking bowler and these tours should have been good learning experience for him. Hope he comes to term with alien conditions soon. Some blame for his failure in overseas conditions should be shared by MSD who becomes very defensive and users spin to only block one end when playing outside subcontinent. Under a more adventures skipper you might see Ashwin with better results.

  • Rajesh on September 2, 2014, 5:25 GMT

    No 1 Spinner in the world followed by daylight and some other average spinners.........

  • Senthil on September 2, 2014, 4:42 GMT

    It's incredible how much flak Ashwin attracts. The same people who suggest Harbhajan should be selected based on his no doubt good record, conveniently forget Ashwin is the fastest Indian to 100 wickets, and is currently ranked the top all rounder in the world.

    Not to demean Bhajji, Ashwin has evolved and is evolving - something Harbhajan never had to do since he reaped the rewards of bowling with Kumble. If Ashwin consistently had someone who could apply pressure at the other end, he would have had even better numbers abroad. As far as his batting is concerned, there is enough evidence to suggest he and he alone in this Test line up had both the technique and the temperament to play England in England easily.

    Lastly, let's not forget Ashwin is competing in the era with two balls being used in ODIs, which means he never gets a ball older than 24 overs!

  • Kall on September 2, 2014, 3:57 GMT

    Ashwin is a terrific bowler and doesn't have an oversized ego like Harbhajan does. He is also ready to work on his bowling (his main role) unlike Harbhajan who batted more than bowled in the nets. Again, he is right when he says that others do not know about when he bowls his variations or whether he is overdoing them. After all, he has taken over 100 test wickets in under 20 tests, much better than any other Indian bowler so far. So, let us leave him alone and not advise him what to do. The other thing is his batting. I feel, for the greater good of the Indian team, he should open the innings!

  • Dummy4 on September 2, 2014, 3:15 GMT

    Good on ya Ashwin so far. But I see a different role for you in longer run and longer format. That is #6 spot for batting. Dhoni at #7 and then the bowlers. Our 4 best bowlers. You are much better batsman than whoever we have tried on #6. A solid technique, good footwork. I reckon @Mahesh S. Panicker already said this thing, but I differ a bit on bowling combination. Rather than having 4 monotonous bowler we should have 3 fast & one left arm spinner or a leggie + Ashwin. But all said, batters need to put runs on board so that game could go in 4/5th day so that these spinners comes into picture. All the best Ashwin.

  • Robin on September 1, 2014, 20:47 GMT

    Usual hot air. India deserves better than Ashwin. Mystery spin required. Problem with Ashwin's mystery balls are that they land half way down the track. India needs a leftarm Chinaman bowler. ps.not looking for a discussion on this..but he is very average and needs a smaller pitch.

  • Ramesh on September 1, 2014, 18:29 GMT

    For Harbhajan, Kumble was the pack member. This is the way Indian teams of the past worked. The number 3 to 7 wickets are becoming crucial. In Vjay they have a fine test batsman who can really bat. He should be persisted with and given the confidence that he should concentrate on scoring and rotating the batting with his partner in the middle. That way the other batsmen can follow his lead as well. Playing with a straight bat is important. Simple rules were forgotten. England, Australia, South Africa all of them start with looking for Indians who are easy to rile or who are ready to fight verbally. The Fab four let their craft speak rather than their mouth. Ashwin is a good test batsman and will keep good company to Dhoni or Bhuvi on either side. Similar batsmen in the tail enders will take the fight to the opposition. Bowlers need runs to be able to be challenging. They cannot defend small scores all the time. Comparisons hurt when bowling craft is different - leftarm vs rightarm.

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