Ashwin adding to his variations
Having been rested from India's tour of Zimbabwe, R Ashwin, the India offspinner, has been working on adding to his bowling variations. "I have the arm-ball, the carrom ball, and the under-cutter but I am developing a flipper that pitches just short of a length and skids on," he told The Hindu. "I am also trying to get the carrom ball that spins into the right-hander. This will add a new dimension to my bowling."
Since his debut in 2011, Ashwin has played 16 Tests and taken 92 wickets at an average of 28.53. In 58 ODIs, the bowler has 80 wickets at an average of 30.83. He attributes his success to sizing up batsmen and ensuring their strengths are kept in check and weaknesses exploited. Against batsmen like Chris Gayle for example, Ashwin said he was focussed on denying the batsman width and room.
"If you toss one up and draw him [Gayle] into a stroke and then pull it back a little, because of the revolutions on the ball, instead of clearing either long-on or long-off, he could be caught at mid-off or mid-on."
Against Australia earlier this year, Ashwin finished as the highest wicket-taker in the four-match series, with 29 wickets in eight innings at an average of 20.41. He said the trick to getting good players of spin, like Michael Clarke, out was in understanding the batsman's technique.
"Clarke is a good player of spin, can step out or hang back," he said. "But then, he defends with hard hands. The trick is to make him play back to a ball that is not really short."
A spinner needs to utilise everything at his disposal to set up a batsman, a fact Ashwin has employed to good effect. Enticing the batsmen into awkward positions and causing trouble to their balance at the crease has also helped the offspinner pick up wickets.
"I came round the wicket and got the left-handed Michael Hussey to drive in the Melbourne Test. Then I held one back, he went for the drive, and edged," he said. "I also bowled one that turned away from Shaun Marsh and then got him with an under-cutter.
"When I come wide of the crease to a right-hander, he is looking for something outside the off-stump. If I then send down one on off and middle, his head could falter and his drive could be uppish."
Another variation that Ashwin had added was the wider arm delivery that helped him get side-spin. "Someone with a high-arm action like me will get more over-spin than side-spin. Graeme Swann bowls a lot wider with his arm than I do, so he achieves plenty of side-spin. I also bowl the wider arm delivery to impart side spin these days," he said.