India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 2nd day August 24, 2012

Patience the key for Ashwin

Still only 25, Ashwin needs to show more patience to be successful. So do the others who expect him to deliver each time

Still very early in his Test career, R Ashwin has experienced extreme highs and lows. He started with 22 wickets in the home series against West Indies last year, went to Australia ahead of Harbhajan Singh and averaged 62.77 for his nine wickets in India's 0-4 thrashing. And right away, the criticisms arrived: He tries too many things rather than focus on his stock offbreak, he has played too much Twenty20 cricket, he is too impatient, and such like.

Indeed, Ashwin looked very flat in Australia, reduced to a containing role amid India's lack of runs and defensive fields. In hindsight, it was forgotten that he was barely three Tests old going to Australia. In hindsight, it was forgotten that even Harbhajan and Muttiah Muralitharan average over 73 and 75 in Australia.

Back home against New Zealand, Ashwin today again demonstrated just how many positives he has for a 25-year old, an age when most spinners aren't supposed to be exactly mature. He used a lot of flight, something he does even when bowling in a T20 Powerplay. He got a lot of bounce, something he relies on more than turn, which was anyway little and slow on the Hyderabad pitch. He bowled largely with control. To his credit, he stuck mostly to tossed-up offbreaks and did not overuse the carrom ball like he'd done in Australia. When he did, he troubled even Kane Williamson, who handled the India spinners the best. And yes, he can bat as well.

"I have always maintained that [I've] relied on my stock ball much higher than I have on the carrom ball," Ashwin said. "Yes, it has done the trick once or twice, I have got people out with it, but [I don't bowl] one every over. I am definitely looking to be patient on it."

And he can learn with showing more patience in this format. He did start to push it through quicker, flatter and shorter to try and get more out of the sluggish pitch when Williamson and James Franklin resisted. As he himself said later, it only made the ball come on better.

"I think the new ball was a little hard and the seam was a little more upright when we spinners started bowling," Ashwin said. "That helped us get a bit of bounce and a few wickets up front. As the ball got older, it was slowing up a little bit. We have to be patient to get wickets tomorrow. There is a little bit of bounce if it is slower through the air. Quicker through the air [it] is obviously going nicely on to the bat."

Somewhat inevitably, Ashwin was again asked what he thought of the criticism about his perceived overuse of the carrom ball. Ashwin, sounding a little miffed, reasoned that the perception had been carried over from his bowling style in limited-overs cricket.

"You want me to elaborate, I can. We play a lot of one-day and T20 cricket and I need to be one up and I would rather try that [the carrom ball] more often in a one-dayer or a T20 game because inevitably I would get hit. I think it is a comparison drawn from there.

"I have played enough first-class cricket to know what the stock ball is. I would rather get pinned down bowling the stock ball than the carrom ball. The carrrom ball is much more of a defensive mechanism, it is not an attacking ball at all. I don't know where that comparison comes in at all."

Perhaps he can learn to be more patient in press conferences as well, but figures of 14-3-30-3 on a day two pitch, combined with a confident 37 earlier with the bat, wasn't a bad day's work at all. Ashwin already has a Test hundred, and again his batting was refreshing for an India No. 8.

Forget the calm steers and stylish clips he played, even the way his bat comes down to meet the ball shows you that this man can bat. India had lost their sixth wicket on 387, and it was largely due to Ashwin that they got close to 450. The rest of India's lower order is really nothing more than a proper tail. As a reminder of that, Pragyan Ojha had one scoring shot in 28 deliveries, and also ran out Umesh Yadav. Ashwin's importance to this Indian side, thus, gets magnified. He surely can improve, but even we, perhaps, need to be more patient with him.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    ENG in AUS , SA in ENG alone is not enough .. then we can also say IND in SL .. For teams like IND , only ENG , AUS and SA pitches are challenging ones.. Similarly for ENG ,SA subcontinent tracks are challenging ones.. so they have to win in subcontinent to prove they deserve no 1.. I think SA is the deserved no 1.. not ENG ... They lost so badly to PAK when chasing 143 by getting dismissed to 72...ENG cant even chase 143 in subcontinent on a good track... Minnow team ENG sucks..

  • narsimha on August 26, 2012, 4:35 GMT

    MAZII-Than what about u r great team , which cant win out side u r second home uae , beaten in SL, CANT WIN ASERIES IN WI even against apoor team , our last 2 tours were bad but still we are better at out side from this region before reminding us of our last 2 bad tours see what was u r performance there last time in aus 3-0, 5-0, in eng 3-1 check the stat guru ,

  • imran on August 25, 2012, 21:40 GMT

    @imsrk...did u even check the test stats of kohli (avg 35) and azhar(avg 45) before commenting here...these stats show that in tests azhar has performed better than kohli, now you can carry on laughing for the rest of your life but that wont change anything...coz stats dont lie

  • Karthik on August 25, 2012, 20:18 GMT

    I think the 2 pacers are under utilized in this test and rightly so.. they shld look into the option of picking 3 spinners and 1 fast bowler for the rest of the series, might be an useful tactic against Eng later on... Dhoni/Kohli can bowl 3-4 overs to take off the shine along with Zaheer/Umesh at the other end.

  • Rahul on August 25, 2012, 19:02 GMT

    Lolz some one said azhar is better than kohli ha ha ha joke of the year

  • Senthil on August 25, 2012, 18:30 GMT

    @brusselslion, Day-1 15,000 odd and Day-2, 11,000, there was much better crowd today but sadly not much of a match played

  • Ranj on August 25, 2012, 18:01 GMT

    Thanks Abhishek. Great article. About Ashwin's perceived ineffectiveness in Aus, it reflects Kumble's point about the importance of the cushion of runs on board. The runs scored allowed him to attack in 2004 and 2008, but not in 1999 when the batsmen were a collective failure. Its too much to ask any spinner- even Murali or Warne' to run through a side when the pitch plays true and your batsmen fail to cross 250. In the first test where India bowled first Ashwin took a few wickets (first innings) that too on day one and two- he could express himself then. His comments on the carrom ball being a defensive delivery make much more sense now. Dhoni can attack in India and spinners get wickets because of the 400+ totals which are pilled in India but not abroad (recently). Harbhajan was ineffective even when there were runs on the board in the last series in Australia. Give Ashwin time and he will be a worthy successor to India's spin legacy.

  • imran on August 25, 2012, 10:38 GMT

    @bruisers...stop dreaming and wake up man, fyi both india and pakistan have never won a series in aus and both have won equal number of series in eng (3 each) we can say that both are not good overseas...and as far as azhar ali and asad shafiq are concerned, they both currently avg around 45 in tests...which is much higher than your kohli, raina, badrinath, pujara if azhar n asad cant find a place in ksca 11, i am not too sure about the chances of the (kohlis, rainas, badri and pujaras) making it to my school cricket team

  • Ray on August 25, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    Anyone know what were the attendances for the 1st two days?

  • Dummy4 on August 25, 2012, 9:04 GMT

    @Kmpm, you are comparing Ashwin, an off-spinner to Yadav, a fast bowler. In Australia, tracks are more pace-friendly, therefore comparing Ashwin to Yadav in their strike-rates isn't really the best option. The stats would be skewed in Ashwin's favour when he plays at home or on spin-friendly tracks. Those criticising Ashwin, take in mind that he's only played a handful of test matches, so we must, as the author put it, stay patient with him, he's has a bright and long future ahead of him.

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