India v West Indies, 1st Test, Kolkata, 3rd day November 8, 2013

Ashwin underlines his batting potential


Ashwin at ease against pace and spin

Rohit Sharma's 177 is the highest score by a No. 6 Test debutant. There is a reason why No. 6 debutants don't register such big scores. To bat long even as they fight first-Test nerves, they invariably have to manoeuvre the innings with the tail. It involves farming the strike, which calls for both confidence and the calculated risk to keep scoring. You end up getting out or are left stranded when batting with the tail.

Except Rohit didn't have to bat with the tail. His partner for India's record seventh-wicket partnership of 280 - from 156 for 6 - was almost a proper batsman. There was no need to look after R Ashwin. As a Test batsman, he has looked more assured and solid than some of the replacements India have tried for Sourav Ganguly. Ashwin's overall average is better than that of Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh, and on India's disastrous tour of Australia he was arguably India's most consistent batsman. He already has more centuries than Raina, and is only one behind Yuvraj.

Ashwin works hard on his batting, and he has the requisite skill to be working on. Unlike India's other bowler-batsmen who have always relied on a few big - and risky - shots at the start before settling down, Ashwin faces the bowling with the mindset of a batsman. He might not get enough time to work on the batting because his offspin is of much more value to India, but he takes a lot of pride in his contribution with the bat. Sans the allrounder label, though.

"Honestly I don't expect to be called anything at all," Ashwin said. "I'm just doing my job, and I'd like to do what I do the best. I'd like to improve all the time."

Against England at the same venue last year, Ashwin had similarly ended a day's play close to a century but failed to get there. That memory, he said, didn't give him a nervous sleepless night. "I slept really well," Ashwin said. "I thought, 'Okay, it's just a number.' I had been here, I was 91 not out the last time [at the end of the innings]. I had a good batsman at the other end so I knew I could probably complete my century. I was very pleased with what I did yesterday, probably a little more pleased today that I got a century."

Ashwin has been to the three figures previously, too, against the same opposition in Mumbai. He admitted that previous century was just a bit of a lark, and this one was the real deal. "The last time I got a hundred I had nothing to think about, I was just enjoying myself," Ashwin said. "But this time it was quite different. We were in a lot of trouble. We were in trouble there as well, but I didn't have anything to lose. Here we could have lost the game from there. I just thought I'd stick it out and see how much difference there could be. Just put on a partnership and hang in there."

It helped that Ashwin was batting with one of his favourite batsmen. "Personally I'm a very big fan of Rohit," Ashwin said. "He has always batted very high in the order and I never got a chance to bat with him. This is his Test debut here... and I just went out there and thought, 'Okay, if he has a good day and I could stick together there could be a partnership together.' We enjoyed our time out together. It's very important to communicate with each other and we had a great time."

MS Dhoni was thankful for Ashwin's contribution. "I think if you see, nowadays the way cricket is played, if Nos 8, 9 and 11 can contribute, that becomes a key factor, to have partnerships lower down the order," he said. "I think he batted really well. He can bat like a batsman, and proved it at the Test level. It was good to see the way he batted. He was positive, played his shots and at the same time got a partnership going with Rohit. I think he batted extremely well."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vas on November 11, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    Dhoni and Ashwin are Vishy Anands of cricket, thinking cricketers. With Dhoni's input Ashwin will only get better. His athletisism sometimes looks hilarious but that is the only aspect of the game he has not got the right DNA. But he is a good catcher, has taken some excellent catches in the slips and C and Bowleds.

    Vishy and Carlsen are fighting it out for world chess title in Chennai. Good luck Vishy.

  • Manesh on November 11, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    @hhillbumper. England may handle him easier, but then there is Jadeja to whom England stumble. Cricket is a team work, so everyone will contribute to the team's victory.

  • Harry on November 10, 2013, 23:57 GMT

    In tests Ind should play 6 specialist batsmen including the wicket keeper and 5 specialist bowlers. Of the 5 bowlers at least 3 of them should bat properly to score 50-100 runs in the lower order which means a total of 300+ in every test match. My vote after Sachin retires is Vijay/Gambhir, Dhawan,Pujara,Kohli,Rohit,Dhoni,Ashwin, Ojha/Mishra/Jadeja,Bhuvi, Yadav, Shami.

    No Raina or Yuvraj in tests please, they are fine for ODI and T20s. Also Kohli needs to improve his Test cricket or else replace him with another youngster like Rahane or Rayudu. The top 5 batsmen should know how to play pace, swing and short pitched bowling and definitely spin.

    Ashwin is an asset to the Test team since he bats properly and is cool as a bowler. He needs to cut down the short pitched bowling and bowl fuller and spin more.

  • veermurali on November 10, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    my only concern regarding ashwin is, he tends to go on the backfoot by pitching the ball short when hit for a mighty heave by the batsman, as mr. bedi would say, spinners should never fear for getting hit and they should consistently tease the batsman as there is a chance of picking more wickets when you draw the batsman of the front foot. out of six balls he bowls in an over, he would bowl more than 3 deliveries pitching short. infact bhajji too went into the oblivion because of the fear of getting hit.

  • raj on November 10, 2013, 3:57 GMT

    There people here suggesting that Ashwin should open the batting etc - Pls do not get carried away! India needs Ashwin, the bowler. Putting extra pressure on him will see his bowling suffer - like Shane Watson suffered when pressured to bowl! Ashwin should be told that his primary focus should be on getting wickets or he will become another Irfan Pathan. In saying that, India should give tailenders, including Ashwin, a hit higher up the order, once in a while, whenever the opportunity presents itself - This will allow tailenders to develop with their batting and be able to play longer innings

  • Ramya on November 9, 2013, 21:24 GMT

    ...contd Bhajji had the luxury of having a Sehwag, Dravid, Sachin, Saurav and Laxman in the batting ranks and we must never forget that he had Kumble at the other end mentoring him all the while. In fact Kumble needs to be lauded for moulding Bajji as much as he did - when he retired Bajji was found wanting.

    Ashwin here is on his own, he is trying to find his feet without much help from anyone else except for the coaching staff. This has to be kept in mind by one & all before commenting on his bowling! One bad series against the English does not make him a bad bowler. He is a quick learner - he proved it against the Aussies.

    In the last match against the WI - in the 1st inning he took the crucial wkt of Chanderpaul who is exceptional against spin and in the 2nd innings too took the wkt of two set batsmen in Bravo & Powell. These wkts were crucial in the game ending in 3 days time - so all those who are jumping to wrong conclusions abt this guy, chk these out before passing comments.

  • Ramya on November 9, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    @munna_indian - Cricket has evolved big time in these past few years. You cannot compare players across eras. Agreed, Ashwin may not be in the same class as the spinning gurus u mentioned, but he is the best in the present scenario. U are blaming Ashwin for not taking wickets when there was a Harbajan and Ojha in the team. U have turned a blind eye to the exceptionally talented Indian batsmen who failed against the spin of Swann and Panesar.

    How can ppl talk abt Ashwin's overseas record when he has played only 3 tests in Australian soil? Ashwin is an asset to the test team - can u plz name another young player among the renowned test playing nations who has a similar all round record with both bat and ball in the present scene?

    Ashwin can contribute to the game - both with bat and ball period. He will be part of the playing XI. He will not become a Harbajan - who started to concentrate on batting rather than bowling. Ashwin is a natural batsman, not like Bajji who trained 2 become 1

  • vas on November 9, 2013, 12:53 GMT

    Vijay is picked to open in test matches because selectors think he is talented. He only played 17 matches. He has scored three100s already. He was involved in 4 partnerships of >200. If Rohit Sharma was given 100 ODIs to come good, Vijay should be persisted with 30-40 matches to establish himself. Only other contenders for opening spot are Mukund and Gambhir. Rahane doesn't open in FC matches and he doesn't want to open in test matches.

  • Bhaskar on November 9, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    Ashwin in actual was an opener, then he became a full time spinner, now the way Vijay is playing I think his state mate Ashwin should start opening the test batting & also be Indian's no. 1 bowler. I think it is time to include Ravindra Jadeja in place of Ishant in the 11. Dhawan, Ashwin, Pujara, Sachin, Kohli, Rohit, Dhoni, Jadeja, Mishra, Bhuvi & shami. 3 spinners & 2 pacemen are enough. People are going ga ga over Shami, same happened to Ishant sharma let the bowlers prove over time, not be 1 test wonders. Ashwin has proved himself to be a match winner, logically he deserved to be man of match above shami & Rohit sharma. He took 5 wickets + 123 runs. Rohit made 177 which is 54 runs more than Ashiwn scored, but then are 5 wickets not more valuable than 54 runs?

  • surya on November 9, 2013, 12:01 GMT

    Ashwin as a batsman is going to have a great record.It isn't just the runs he scores but the fluency with which he plays some difficult shots which makes him a specialist batsman IMO.He has often run out partners in many of his innings and got out trying to clear the fields.Irony is that the team management consider jadeja who is a better bowler than ashwin as a better batsman.Think their roles in the team should be swapped.

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