Ashwin not being handled properly - Maninder Singh
R Ashwin has lost his way in international cricket due to a combination of experimenting too much with his bowling and not receiving the right guidance, former India spinner Maninder Singh believes. If he is to regain his best form and live up to his "match-winning" potential, the BCCI has to step in quickly and get India's bowlers the right coaches, Maninder said in an interview with ESPNcricinfo.
Ashwin had showcased a new bowling action in India's opening Asia Cup match, on Wednesday, and what he saw worried him, Maninder said. "He has been trying so many variations. It generally happens that when you try too many things then you lose your originality and that is what is happening, and that is the worry for me," he said. "For me, Ashwin is a match-winner. He can win you matches whether they are Test matches or ODIs or T20s.
"But everything has gone haywire with him. I don't know what the bowling coach has been doing with him, and what the main coach and captain have been doing with him. If I was around, I would not have allowed [his bowling to slip] that so far that he had to change his action."
Last year Ashwin became the fastest bowler in more than 80 years to 100 Test wickets, and received the Polly Umrigar Award, the highest award handed out by the BCCI to a current player. However, on India's overseas travels his effectiveness often falls away and he recently went wicketless in several matches. Subsequently, he lost his place as the primary Test spinner to Ravindra Jadeja during the South Africa series in December.
Ashwin's problems stem from the fact that he has adopted a defensive mindset, Maninder said. "Someone has got to tell him that you were picked in the Indian side because you showed that intent that you wanted to get wickets in the IPL, in 20-overs games," he said. "Then you come into a Test match and after the Australia series [last year], I read somewhere, he said 'my role was to restrict'. Now who has given him that idea? It's the captain.
"So I think he is not being handled properly. Somebody who came into the Indian side because he had the capability and the urge to take wickets, he was eager to take wickets in 20-overs cricket, becomes defensive in Test cricket where you are supposed to take wickets … Something is going wrong somewhere, someone is giving him the wrong advice."
Getting the right bowling coach, and at the earliest, would be key to Ashwin and the other India bowlers' fortunes, Maninder said. "The BCCI has to wake up and get a proper bowling coach who can assist our bowlers. It's not only Ashwin, Jadeja, you know he has got his limitations but he is real [talent] himself as well. You've got to have a proper guide for these kids, who can tell them what is right and what is not.
"Someone has got to keep talking to these kids and stop them from thinking negatively. What needs to be urgently addressed is what is happening with the bowling coach. We had Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling an Australian length; he's someone who pitches the ball up and takes wickets, but he has stopped swinging the ball. The urgent requirement is to look for somebody, a bowling coach who can guide our bowlers properly. And get a proper spinner guide for the spinners, we don't want to lose them quickly."
Devashish Fuloria, who was on ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary for the Bangladesh game, explained what was different about Ashwin on Wednesday:
During his three-plus years for India, Ashwin has bowled conventional offspin with a carom ball, the one that goes the other way. He has also experimented with his run-up, often using the pause just before the release as a surprise option. Another variation has been bowling with a round-arm action.
On Wednesday against Bangladesh, however, he produced a completely new-look action - and his wearing a full-sleeved jersey added to the sense of change. The approach to the crease was the same, but his release had a remarkable similarity to Sunil Narine's final push. For starters, the bowling action was visibly more front-on. Instead of the fingers going over the ball to impart velocity - and revs - to the ball, Ashwin was cutting the ball sideways with a quick snap of the wrist.
Recently, Ashwin has struggled with his lines. In his first spell in Fatullah, it can be said that he bowled with much-improved control, regularly tossing up deliveries outside off and getting them to deviate off the pitch. Even when he drifted on to the pads, he was still managing better control on the flight and dip - the components that he seemed to have lost in limited-overs cricket at least. The amount of spin ranged between sharp to non-existent, and those were the only variations he used in that spell.
He bowled his carom ball a few times in his second spell, but the offspinner delivered with his original action was not used during the day.