India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 4th day August 26, 2012

An increasingly threatening partnership

R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha have an excellent record bowling together at home and could play a critical role in tougher tests ahead

R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha have now taken 60 wickets between them in the four Tests they have played together. How much ever you try to temper it down, it is still a remarkable stat. Yes, all the four Tests were at home. Yes, all the four Tests were against West Indies and New Zealand batsmen who are uncomfortable against spin. Yes, Ashwin-and-Ojha are not remotely Anil Kumble-and-Harbhajan Singh yet. But an average return of 15 wickets per Test is no joke. Had they been a pair of young fast bowlers who had demolished batsmen for four successive home Tests, you can imagine the kind of hype they would have generated.

All the talk in recent days has been about the need for India's young batsmen to get exposure against New Zealand before England and Australia arrive. VVS Laxman gave the same reason for announcing his international retirement days before this Test started, despite being selected for the series. But as big a positive for India is the kind of partnership Ashwin and Ojha have started to develop. For all their overseas troubles, India still have an outstanding home record, and Ashwin-and-Ojha will be critical to their chances against England and Australia.

They may have bowled together in only four games at the Test level, but Ashwin said they go back a long way. "Ojha is someone who I have played with since I was 16 and we have always enjoyed each other's company," Ashwin said. "I was a batsman then when Ojha was a prime bowler but I still used to bowl in one-day games. We always used to bowl well together because we used to build pressure very well."

That pressure was applied from both ends against New Zealand as well. Both Ashwin and Ojha have excellent control over their stock deliveries, and don't bowl a lot of hit-me balls. Both rely a lot on bounce, not so much on turn; there was plenty of the former on this pitch. Ashwin used his height to get it, Ojha his pivot. Both are young and inexperienced, though, which means a few short ones every now and then. Both should learn with time.

What helps is that both are quite different bowlers. Ashwin, in the longer form, is not unlike Harbhajan, in that he seems to want a wicket with almost every delivery he bowls, and starts showing signs of impatience when it doesn't come. He will bang it hard into the pitch and increase the pace, hoping to get more bite, especially on flatter pitches. But, not unlike the Harbhajan of old, he seems to come up with the wicket-taking deliveries regularly, and seemingly out of nowhere.

Ojha has the more containing role in the team, and is quite good at it. Once he hits a restrictive line, he hardly deviates from it. He might bowl the odd short ball, but his line is usually very consistent. Unlike Ashwin, he does not go out of his way to try and pick up wickets, and that works well for both. Not that Ojha has a very defensive mindset - he flights the ball so much - but for him, as he says, a wicket is the outcome of tying batsmen down first.

Ashwin acknowledged Ojha's contribution in the game. "Due credit needs to be given to him. When one spinner starts to take wickets, the other spinner can get carried away and doesn't really bog the batsman down."

A look at the scorecard might tell you it was all too easy for the India spinners but this morning, New Zealand went through an entire session without losing a wicket, with Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson batting safely. The session would have been another lesson in patience for Ashwin and Ojha.

"We have seen many such cases in first-class cricket," Ashwin said. "When two batsmen are going good, even on dustbowls, it is very tough for a bowler to dislodge them. You have to prise them out, be very patient and once one or two wickets fall quickly, it becomes that much easier because the new batsman has to move his feet around, get his technique in place. So you can be attacking him all the time. We knew it was a matter of time, a matter of patience to play on the batsman."

With his haul of 12 for 85, Ashwin went past the 12 for 152 by his fellow Tamil Nadu offspinner and former India captain S Venkataraghavan in 1965 as the best by an India bowler against New Zealand. "I took a glance at it during the presentation and I told Badri [S Badrinath, also from Tamil Nadu], 'Look who is in second place'," Ashwin said. India will want that given responsive surfaces, Ashwin and Ojha would have similar things to say against England and Australia as well.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2012, 15:50 GMT

    Ok, Indian pitches they did well, they taken every wickets of New Zealand; India, New Zealand visiting time they also will do same like this. They will prepare fast pitches and India cannot cross 200, same like what happened in South Africa, England and West Indies. So no need to praise this much otherwise they need to take wickets in fast pitches, that they can't and also for what Zaheer Khan in team, this much senior player he need to take rest, opposition not that much strong, if they can include some new bowlers or all rounders in his place, at least they will get some experience, otherwise like in England if anybody injured; they need to call RP Singh or somebody (very poor performer even in internal matches too within one year.) Please prepare fast pitches at least for internal matches otherwise Indian cricket team big zero in abroad.

  • DINESH on August 29, 2012, 6:50 GMT

    KIWIROCKER: Please talk with some sense. When India lost 15-0 in England and OZ and Ashwin was thrashed by English players in England and Pak players thrashed ashwin in Asia Cup? In Oz India won an ODI and T20 against OZ. Ashwin never played against England in tests and in ODIs he was the leading wicket taker for India. In the Asia cup his figures against Pak was 10-0-56-1, whereas the leading, promising and Pak's future bowlerWAHAB RIAZ figures were 4-0-50-0 and another gifted, youngest, promising spinner Ajmal's figure was 9-0-49-1. Poor player he could not complete his quota against India. If you have time please advise your team how to win against Oz at least on your home ground.

  • Thyagarajan on August 28, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    The best part of both Ashwin and Ojha is that you have an expectation of a wicket falling everytime they come on to bowl. You never lose hope. I don't think Bajji ever had that effect definitely not in the near past but I think even earlier. It may be too early to judge, but looks like Ashwin has sealed his spot in all forms of the game all over while Ojha for Sub-continent tests.

  • Satish on August 28, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    @pankajkumarsingh : When was Ashwin trashed in England? Try to get your facts right buddy.. May be in Australia but the whole world knows the condition where the game was played and the record of visiting spinners in Australia.. For the matter, any home spinner apart from Warne.. Kumble had one series of success there.. India has the weakest spin attack - in terms of experience alone. I could see Ash and Ojha as second leading spin attack after Ajmal and Rehman. I think the England test series will give us the perfect picture..

  • RAJARAMAN on August 28, 2012, 8:17 GMT

    How sad ... there are people who will not cherish victory, not appreciate young talent succeeding ... cricket is never thought as a team game in India ... it is always about individuals .. be it praise or hatred ... silly

  • RAJARAMAN on August 28, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    Ashwin has started well ... let us appreciate that and wish him well ... why take extreme stands ... certainly this pair can achieve greater things in future ... if the selectors allow them???

  • Senthil on August 28, 2012, 7:38 GMT

    By the same yardstick, how well have Broad, Bresnan and Anderson done in subcontinent conditions? Anderson went for 91 in 10 overs without getting a wicket against Bangladesh, anybody remember? So is he a useless bowler? India has done better abroad than other teams have done in India, so time to stop harping on that front, too.

  • Senthil on August 28, 2012, 7:18 GMT

    No matter what - judging any Test cricketer after just 7 tests is not fair, whether positive or negative. That said, 43 wickets is not to be scoffed at, no matter what the conditions provided. Let Ojha and Ashwin add to their awesome combined tally for another year or so, and then we can take stock.

  • Satish on August 28, 2012, 6:05 GMT

    @KiwiRocker: Good points mate.. Ojha and Ashwin didn't play against England bu Bhajji and Mishra.. Ashwin played against Australia and he was the best spinner from both the sides in those games. We all know how tough it is for the spinners in Australia and England especially.. BTW, Ashwin's record against WI and NZ wouldn't make him a star just yet but still, it is welcome.. Yes he didn't prove yet against bigger teams but still, he haven't failed too as he didn't play them yet in better conditions for spin.. As mch i agree with you that Ash isn't a success yet, you too need to accept that he isn't a failure yet as you mentioned.. Oh yeah.. India is in lower half after a full turn of away tours and now they have a schedule where they are going to play more in home.. Tables may turn buddy..

  • Satish on August 28, 2012, 5:28 GMT

    Lets be more clear mates.. Unless you are a Shane Warne, you will never say Spinners can bowl very well in England, Australia and South Africa.. Not even the other greatest in Murali. Paceman's record will not be measured by success in India or even SC.. So why show dissent to another art? If we should not hype Ashwin for taking wickets only on spin tracks, why say Cummins/Pattinson the great next thing without being tested in SC tracks..

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