Sanjay Manjrekar
Former India batsman; now a cricket commentator and presenter on TV

How Ashwin can turn his class to world-class

He has a terrific temperament for spin bowling and doesn't alter his plans just because he gets hit for a six. All he needs to do now is work on his fitness

Sanjay Manjrekar

November 10, 2012

Comments: 100 | Text size: A | A

R Ashwin bowls during the second innings, India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 4th day, August 26, 2012
If Ashwin works on building his strength, he can get turn and bounce on unresponsive pitches as well © AFP

I saw R Ashwin for the first time in the IPL in 2008. It was easy to like him. He looked a typical Tamil Nadu spinner, one with the striking spinner's skills and a sturdy temperament. He looked like he had bowled plenty of overs in his young life and that bowling offspin was second nature to him. He had a very natural bowling action, with easy control over the ball, giving you the impression that to bowl accurately wasn't hard for him and that he was instead occupied with working out other offspin skills. What appealed most to me was his temperament. And that gets severly tested and exhibited in a tournament like the IPL. Ashwin came out with flying colours in nearly every game.

For someone that young and inexperienced at the first-class level, he looked unperturbed when batsmen went after him. The ball a spinner bowls just after he has been hit for a six tells you a lot about him. Navjot Sidhu, the former India opening batsman, who I played a lot of cricket with, had a theory he used all through his career. After running down the pitch and hitting a spinner for six, he'd stay back in the crease, waiting for the inevitable flatter, quicker ball, to square-cut off the back foot for four. If Sidhu had played against Ashwin, he would have made a mental note that here was a different spinner, for Ashwin would still toss the next delivery up after watching one disappear for six. It was incredible to see MS Dhoni give the new ball to Ashwin every time a Chris Gayle-type player took strike in the IPL, and Ashwin invariably rose to the occasion.

No bowler likes getting hit, but Ashwin's strength is that he does not mind getting hit as much as most spinners do. It's an area where he is clearly ahead of Harbhajan Singh as a lead spinner. Every time you watch Harbhajan in action, you get the feeling he loathes getting hit and gives you the impression that curbing runs is a priority for him. If you wonder why he doesn't bowl a lot fuller than he does, or why he bowls the middle- and leg-stump lines more than the outside-off-stump line, which can often be the more wicket-taking one, my guess is it's because he does not like getting tonked over midwicket or long-on for six. Ashwin doesn't mind this as much. After hitting Harbhajan for a six, Sidhu would definitely have square-cut the next ball for four.

There are, of course, some areas where Harbhajan has an advantage over Ashwin, like in the amount of overspin they generate. But this not a comparative exercise between the two, more a study of Ashwin.

The middle-stump line that Ashwin bowls - with the carrom ball as a variation - is his insurance when in trouble. It will fetch him some easy wickets down the order, which means he can end up with three wickets even if he has bowled poorly for most of an innings

I think the wonderful line that Ashwin bowls has developed naturally, without him realising how critical it is to his success. The middle-stump line that he bowls - with the carrom ball as a variation - is his insurance when in trouble. It will fetch him some easy wickets down the order, which means he can end up with three wickets even if he has bowled poorly for most of an innings. On good days that line will help him run through sides. When his tail is up, Ashwin will get you six or seven wickets, instead of three or four.

It is the line match-winning bowlers bowl which means that nine times out of ten their deliveries will go on to hit the stumps. So if a batsman misses, while the three-wicket bowler winces in disappointment that he has not got a lbw or bowled (think Ishant Sharma, here), an Ashwin or an Anil Kumble would have got the wicket instead.

However, the one thing that holds Ashwin back from being a chief contributor to India's success, especially overseas, is his physical fitness, especially strength. We have seen how his fitness affects his fielding and running between the wickets, but the critical damage it does is to his bowling. Like most Indian spinners, Ashwin failed to make a mark on Australian pitches when India toured last year. Nathan Lyon, his Australian counterpart, got more spin and bounce in Adelaide because by habit Aussie spinners bowl not just with their arms and fingers but their whole body.

With Indian pitches being "ready to spin", a spinner here does not need to make a huge effort to spin the ball; arms and fingers are enough. But you need to use your whole body to get turn and bounce from an unresponsive pitch. That is why I was very excited when I saw Anustup Majumdar, a part-time legspinner, bowl East Zone to victory in the Duleep Trophy final recently. Here was an Indian spinner using his whole body in harmony to bowl every delivery of legspin. No wonder he got the ball to spin quickly and bounce on a very slow and dry pitch. If Majumdar takes his bowling more seriously, he has a lot going for him as a legspinner.

I am not a big fan of cricketers doing too much work in the gym, but Ashwin would do well to spend more time in an air-conditioned gym than in the heat of a Chennai ground.

Mind you, Ashwin does use his body a little more than most Indian spinners do, but because his body lacks strength, he is not able to get the ball to fizz as much on unresponsive pitches.

He has had his share of international success. He has been able to keep Harbhajan out of the team since making his debut. That in itself is a great achievement. He is a star T20 bowler and a good 50-over bowler, but he will know that his real worth will be measured in Tests, where the batsman isn't necessarily trying to hit every ball for six or four.

With England and Australia touring India in the next few months, Ashwin will have a chance to enhance his reputation further as an international spinner. England may be the easier challenge of the two, but if Ashwin can get physically stronger, I believe, no one can stop him from becoming a spinner that Indian cricket will be proud of in the years to come.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here

RSS Feeds: Sanjay Manjrekar

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2012, 21:52 GMT)

" Every time you watch Harbhajan in action, you get the feeling he loathes getting hit and gives you the impression that curbing runs is a priority for him" ...targeting Harbhajan was uncalled for. When you think of it, you should loathe getting hit and curbing runs is pretty much the priority for IPL matches. Sanjay Manjrekar was himself was thrown out of the team after a few test matches. He was too slow for ODI's that precipitated his layoff. I cannot believe this guy actually writes about IPL, he wouldnt be allowed to bring water to Harbhajan.

Posted by mark2011 on (November 13, 2012, 19:03 GMT)

Ashwin does not mind getting hit....mmm nice line.. yeah he was not bothering at all when Watson & Warner were hitting him out of the ground in the T20 cup match with Aus few weeks before....hopefully KP may be able to repeat it

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (November 12, 2012, 18:44 GMT)

Ashwin can turn into a world class spinner by taking wickets in match-winning performances on all surfaces all over the world. 'No bowler likes getting hit' - wrong. I remember seeing Kumble set up batsmen by bowling a boundary ball two overs in a row and them getting him out in the third over. Sometimes you have to sacrifice runs to get the wicket.

Posted by   on (November 12, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

I don't knw why people criticizing ashwin...he might nt be d best , but is gud enough to sustain at international level...he might nt hv d magic delivery (doosra) like ajmal but he has carrom ball (at d same tym wid clear action)...n iam sure in 5 yrs or so he wil be abv bhajii.... he takes wicket n I think dat is wat shud matter....he was a failure in aus but it was his fst series...also the great murali was also a failure in Aust... so all u ppl jst chill let dis guy play as long as he performs ..

Posted by Haleos on (November 12, 2012, 7:32 GMT)

@ joiedevivre - well said. People like tiwary , kohli are exceptions. Tiwary will get his chance soon with SRT nearing hi retirement unless his spot goes to one of the most talented TN/CSk players.

Posted by Haleos on (November 12, 2012, 7:29 GMT)

First and foremost he needs to get fit. He moves around like an injured elephant. Even an elephant may overtake him with 2 legs. Second he needs to start thinking himself as world class and bowl with more flight and not get defensive quickly.

Posted by JoieDeVivre on (November 12, 2012, 1:29 GMT)

Is the issue of physically unfit only holds good for Ashwin? Ofcourse not. There has never been any doubt as far as skills are concerned in an Indian Cricketer, the issue has always been physical strength and metal toughness. Very few Indian Cricketers can lay claim to being physically and mentally strong. Ishant Sharma for all the abilities he is blessed with is an fine example and ever flattering to deceive Rohit Sharma another example. When you watch someone like Ashwin you get the impression he is lazy and doesn't like putting those hard yards and once again this holds good for most Indian bowlers, some of the young batters are fine fielders but the bowlers are dismal to say the least. With the quality of outfields improving in most of the cities bad fielding or being bad athelets in just not an excuse any more. Only reason like I said is Indian bowlers are skillful but very lazy.

Posted by ssenthil on (November 11, 2012, 20:11 GMT)

@ LillianThomson, May be Ashwin lacks in his fitness but not ability. It doesn't matter he is not taken 200 FC wickets, he is going to be the fastest Indian to take 50 Test wickets at Ahmadabad and by the end of the series he will break in to top 10 test bowler ranking as well. He has been promoted beyond his FC ability since no Indian spinner can have a better stats when playing FC matches in India since Indian Batsman plays spin that well unlike England, if you have any doubt look at TN vs Karnataka Ranji match to know that the pitch started turning square from day 1 but still only 7 wickets has fallen in 3 complete days. He may not want to be selected in those countries, but definitely he will be selected for World XI.

Posted by golgoal on (November 11, 2012, 17:57 GMT)

@getsetgopk There isn't one international quality bowler in Pakistan. And Pakistani batsmen's skills are legendary - PCB is considering having them play against women's teams so they can at least score some runs there. And of course what can we say about Pakistani team's choking skills - books and books have been written about that. And don't worry about Indian teams rankings, we were at the top not too long ago, and will be there soon. Pak team on the other hand has been very consistently scraping the bottom and there's no hope there for your either.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on (November 11, 2012, 17:02 GMT)

I think Ashwin was involved in an accident as a child that broke his hip. That's the reason why he is slightly hampered. He did his best to be this quick on his legs. Bravo Ashwin!

Posted by getsetgopk on (November 11, 2012, 15:36 GMT)

LillianThomson: The reason for that promotion is that there is simply no decent enough bowler in the whole of India, there was Harbajan but he too was not international quality to begin with, pace attack is simply non existent, who else is going to bowl? They just pick these mediocre club level bowlers and then tout them into world class spinners which only results in whitewashes abroad. The reason why they dont agree to play Pakistan in UAE is because of that fear that another whitewash would send Indian cricket way bellow into the ICC rankings table. That is the reason why India wont tour for the next two years. That period will stabilize their rankings a bit. Pak has been playing all their cricket out side pak for the past three years now and still have a better test ranking than India. Its all about potential and skill.

Posted by fnminimi on (November 11, 2012, 13:42 GMT)

ashwin and company for sure represent lack of talent.they only survive in international cricket because thare are not enough guys who play spin effectively.i agree with bedi about sehwag being indias best spinner yuvraj is a fine spinner too.

Posted by cricket9lover on (November 11, 2012, 10:20 GMT)

As sanjay tells Ashwin can turn his class to world-class I think what India is missing a trick here is not giving ample oppurtunities to rahul sharma who has shown promise and delivered also india needs him in odis,we lack a legspinner in odi we have left armer in yuraj and jadeja,in test generally two spinners are enough the task is very well done by ashwin & ojha.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 11, 2012, 8:39 GMT)

However good Ashwin is, or will be, he will be more effective with Pragyan Ojha bowling in tandem with him! IMO, this article would've been far more interesting had it compared & contrasted the complementary skills of these two fine bowlers (sorry, Sanjay!). Sub-continental teams invariably play at least two spinners in home Test matches, and their effectiveness is dependent on the manner in which they dovetail. One of the many, many fascinations of our game is the subtle ways in which one player makes another more effective: more than the sum of their two parts. This is esp. true of bowlers as one cannot mention one without thinking of the other. For example, Laker & ?; Lindwall & ?; Ramadhin & ?; Bedi & ? or ? Further back, Gregory & ?. I'm sure the point's taken. This 'spotlighting' of one player, divorcing him from his team context, as it were, is a peculiar Indian phenomenon, esp when this twinning of Ashwin & Ojha has the potential to join the others in the long illustrious list.

Posted by ladycricfan on (November 11, 2012, 8:28 GMT)

Why some people are accusing Ajmal for chucking? ICC tested him and his action is approved to be within rules. What else he has to do? Live and let live.

Posted by WickyRoy.paklover on (November 11, 2012, 7:45 GMT)


Posted by kharidra on (November 11, 2012, 7:34 GMT)

This a very good and well informed piece of comments. These comments provide an insight into how to plug the existing loop holes of players to turn their class acts into world class performance. This piece of information should be conveyed to the players concerned as there is danger of not being looked at all by anybody and therefore the observations do not get the deserved attention. Not only the players concerned need to be informed but also the physios and coaches and the concerned team management need to be given the analyses picture as the information is about enhancing power, stamina strength and agility. If some steady processes of feeding into player management of such analysis and identification of SWOT so that timely action can produce results in such important Series that follow.This well thought out analysis has come out a bit late already with the series almost on the verge of commencement. Nevertheless it is better late than never as a golden opportunity awaits the team.

Posted by MysticMan on (November 11, 2012, 6:53 GMT)

Ashwin is improving with every test; I think it was in the last test that I saw him bowl a genuine off spinner with his Soduku (Carrom) ball which went on to hit the middle and leg! Fitness is something that is achievable and I am sure Team India will get into better shape with every test.

Posted by   on (November 11, 2012, 6:44 GMT)

Nice Article ...This article is about how Ashwin can work on his shortcomings to become a world class bowler . I don't know why people are bullshiting over here..

Posted by IndCricFan2013 on (November 11, 2012, 4:22 GMT)

It is a very good tip about using the whole body to spin. Fitness may help, but it is not the important part of it. Ashwin is not that bad like say Ramesh Pawar, but being more fit would help. But there are lots of more areas that Ashwin can improve on. He is an intelligent bowler, no doubt about it, he is the best India has, no doubt about it, but who is not intelligent these days. Ashwin is also a good learner and learns from others. I think that is an area that needs to focus bit more. On the same match when other spinners getting better than him, he needs some one analyze things for him and he needs to learn continuously. Shewag has been so successful (when he uses rightly) basically copying shots from Sachin. There is no need to reinvent things. There is plenty that has been done and plenty that has been going on now as a spinners, he needs to look at what he can use of the things that are available and learn them and apply them, which he is good at doing. He just needs time....

Posted by LillianThomson on (November 11, 2012, 2:57 GMT)

Ashwin's problem is a lack of ability, not fitness. Here is a man of 26 who has not even taken 200 First Class wickets. He has been promoted beyond his First Class ability, but would not even be close to Test selection for Pakistan or Sri Lanka, or arguably even England or Bangladesh or New Zealand.

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (November 11, 2012, 2:11 GMT)

DaGameChanger- This article is not about Younis Khan but as a reminder Younis Khan has one of the best fourth innings averages in the history of cricket. While, Many Gods and walls have failed in 4th innings of a test match, Younis Khan has delievered and he has scored runs when it mattered instead of worthless runs on flat dust bowls. Younis khan's 267 against India in India was a wonderful knock! Just ask Anil Kumble. Grapres are sour and article is about Ashwin, but comparison is being drawn with Saeed Ajmal who is an entirely different bowled ranked top in all forms of games cleared by game's own governing body. I just hope that ICC has a courage to look at Ashwin's delivery stride as the pause in his delivery stride is against rules of game. I hope they do not allow him to do what Harbhajan Singh did for years and went on to take 300 wickets!CrickInfo: Please Publish!

Posted by GRVJPR on (November 11, 2012, 1:42 GMT)

For a true test lover its frustrating to see bowlers like Saeed Ajmal bending their elbows and bringing test cricket to disrepute. Congratulations to Ashwin for playing the game fair and keep yourself away from Chuckers like Saeed Ajmal. Test cricket needs you more than elbow bender saeed ajmal

Posted by maddy20 on (November 11, 2012, 1:40 GMT)

@KiwiRocker You are comparing a relatively rookie spinner to an aging about to retire Saeed Ajmal. The guy has played very few matches and will get better with time. Muralitharan averages 40+ vs India and that does not make him a bad bowler does it? Ajmal bowled in UAE dustbowls(heavily rigged to favor the Pakistani spinners) where a score in excess of 250 is a match winning totalAlso, these so called average players have won 2 worldcups in the last 5 years and were at the top of the test rankings for 2 and half years, something the Pakistanis cannot even dream of. So if you think Indian cricketers are average, then it automatically implies that Pakistan are below average. Also for the record, Ashwin averages less than Ajmal, has a lower strike rate(balls/wicket) and is a handy lower order batsman with a century to his name and a batting average of close to 40. Even the Pakistani middle order batsmen do not have that kind of a batting average(Hafeez, Akmal, Malik etc.,).

Posted by Rajesh_india_1990 on (November 11, 2012, 1:18 GMT)

Why everyone is comparing off-spinner ashwin with javelion thrower ajmal?anyway he is miles ahead of so called magician..

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 10, 2012, 22:42 GMT)

@getsetgopk: Okay... so you expect me to think like you do then ? We are individuals. And YES ! test cricket makes me feel miserable. I can't stand it which is why I choose to catch the occasional highlights whenever I have the time instead of watching it session by session, day by day. You have to believe it when someone says it so don't question me ! This is what makes us all different and unique. To be honest, I don't care what Ashwin does. I was only giving my suggestions based on the present circumstances in world cricket where test cricket is masquerading around as the 'premier' format of the sport.

Posted by getsetgopk on (November 10, 2012, 21:15 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster: ahh so we are playing with words here, you wrote 'ashwin should play more first class cricket'. You can scroll down and see what you wrote but i'll advise against it. Do you always want someone to do something that you hate? And why would any kind of sport make any one 'sad'? If people judge a cricketer on his test cricket's standing then be it, that means that they 'like' that format of the game or whatever reason there might be, whats there to be sad about? I dont like golf, but I dont have to hate it LOL Why would I be sad about people liking to play or watch golf hahaha, finally I cant believe Im having this conversation.

Posted by Thamara on (November 10, 2012, 20:28 GMT)

Aswin is a bowler who has very good control and also he knows exactly what he should do in certain situations. There is no doubt that he has the potential to become a world-class spinner if he keeps performing well constantly. But the problem lies in whether he has the mental capacity to adapt to the all three forms of the game accordingly. In modern cricket, it has been very difficult for the spin bowlers to stay threatening for a long time because of new technology and T-20 cricket. For example, Ajantha Mendis came on to the international scene as a mystery bowler and during the initial part of his career, batsmen had no idea what he was doing with his fingers. But after a several months, most of the batsmen picked up his tricks and as a result he doesn't even have a permanent place in Sri Lankan team.Although these spinner are talented, they cannot overpower batsmen for a long time like Shane warne, Murali and Kumble did because of the congested cricket schedule.

Posted by DaGameChanger on (November 10, 2012, 20:01 GMT)

@KiwiRocker..I couldn't stop read after you put Younis Khan as a strong batsman list..still laughing..You remind of my quote from my fav. hero .."Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 10, 2012, 19:46 GMT)

@getsetgopk: I am solid as Mt. Everest and I HATE test cricket as if it was my sworn enemy; no changes there. However, I cannot decide what Ashwin does for a living now can I ? Whether I like test cricket or not, it has no bearing on Ashwin. He is a pro cricketer playing for India and he HAS to play test cricket if he wants to play for India in the long run. Sadly, our world judges cricketers on the basis of first class cricket and test cricket, hence my earlier comments. Time will come when T20 is the ONLY format of cricket. Hope to see your reaction then ? Besides, I am way grown up than you can even imagine.

Posted by S.N.Singh on (November 10, 2012, 19:36 GMT)


Posted by ssenthil on (November 10, 2012, 18:58 GMT)

@S-A-M-1994, Atleast he is lot better then 3rd Class people like you. 49 Tests wickets at 26.63 Avg is not 3rd Class club level if you were not really 3rd class.

Posted by ssenthil on (November 10, 2012, 18:56 GMT)

People lamenting that Ashwin have to play a lot of FC matches he had his FC debut in 2006, and have 6 years of FC experience with 35 First Class matches already apart from his 8 Tests. I don't think he is short of FC experience. He will come good in overseas as well though not as much as he was at home but better then many spinners spare overseas. He may not Warne or Murali class but he will be better then most other 2nd level spinners (I rate only Warne and Murali as First Class so far in the last 25 years).

Posted by laxmanrules on (November 10, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

I just wanted to put in a word in favour of Ojha as not many seem to realise that he is amazingly gifted at building pressure from the other end. And, in my view, he's still our number 1 spinner and should have played all the tests in Australia.

Posted by Nampally on (November 10, 2012, 16:32 GMT)

Sanjay, Improved Physical condition singled for Ashwin. applies to most Indian Test Cricketers. Amongst the top Indian Cricketers, Raina, Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Tiwary, Jadeja & Rahane are the best fielders. Unfortunately almost all of them are batsmen. All Indian bowlers are poor fielders & slow. ZAK, Munaf, Ojha, Vinay all fall in this category. So the BCCI & the Indian Selectors need to focus on this aspect & run Physical fitness camps for the Cricketers round the year. As far as agility is concerned, it is function of genetics. West Indies guys are born with speed, agility & flexibility. Is it any wonder that Bolt holds the world record!. Regards the bowling skills, Ashwin is young & strong but still has to learn a lot. His length, control & direction as well as mixing of Doosra, Carrom ball with off spin needs to be used intelligently. He cannot afford to bowl ANY No balls!.He definitely needs to impart more spin- depends on grip & use of fingers + wrist. It will come with practice.

Posted by sashwin on (November 10, 2012, 16:21 GMT)

First, please ask Harbhajan to show his arms while bowling, he hides his bowling action with full sleeves.. Ashwin is talented but overweight, he is IPL material.

One will know if he has real talent only when IPL eventually lapses one day.

Posted by vind_2801 on (November 10, 2012, 15:17 GMT)

@swasthik kiwirocker is not from india ......he is from pakistan

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 15:11 GMT)

ashwin is good for t-20 and odis not test though

Posted by sachin_fan07 on (November 10, 2012, 14:43 GMT)

Spinners get better with age and experience.Ashwin at 26 is already among the best in the world and has a great future.There is so much talk about his performance during the tour of australia and i feel its unfair (one has to bear in mind it was only his second test series) even the greatest of all time mularithran averages 75 in australian conditions.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (November 10, 2012, 13:53 GMT)

@aarpee2 swann struggled in australia? hahaha!!!! then who took 5 wickets against aus in adelaide? then who bowled tightly in sydney and melbourne to support the quick bowlers? he struggled only in the 1st innings in brisbane and occassionally in perth but they were really pace oriented wickets. but unlike england india didnt even pick their spinner which shows the confidence which eng have in the world class swann. and the problem with ashwin is not that he didnt pick wickets , the problem is that he didnt even bowl tightly. He bowled ridiculous lines and lengths.

Posted by getsetgopk on (November 10, 2012, 13:50 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster: Errrmm 'Ashwin needs to play first class cricket?' I thought test cricket let alone first class cricket was boring and meaningless, your mood swings with the passing clouds im sure. But dont worry, you'll learn as you grow up. Way to go!

Posted by usernames on (November 10, 2012, 13:36 GMT)

I think, really, he gets a lot of flak, specially from people who just hate everything India (yeah, Kiwirocker, talking about you). He's a very good bowler--he took 9 wickets in 3 tests on his first tour to Australia when the team was being teared apart, that's okay. With time, he will surely improve on a few aspects but till then, let's not judge him. He is a hard working and thinking cricketer.

Posted by S-A-M-1994 on (November 10, 2012, 12:12 GMT)

3rd class Club level bowler cant be World shortage of talent...ya can imagine ashwin as best spinner of india ha ha ha

Posted by aarpee2 on (November 10, 2012, 11:46 GMT)

Even Swann,rated as World's No1 spinner struggled in Australia in 2010 and it was the English pacers who won the test series.Therefore it is too early unfair to judge ashwin harshly I was more concerned with the failure of Ishant,young and tall at 140+ with several tests behind him consistently failing even to achieve a breakthrough on pacer friendly wickets both in England and Australia 2011 series when the opposition pacers had the measure of the INDIAN Batsman with most tests finishing in less than5 days. Ashwin will learn sooner than later how to cope and deal with overseas wickets. He has age,talent,skills and temperament to make himself a good bowling all rounder in the INDIAN 11 as his batting looks assured and technically sound

Posted by bigdhonifan on (November 10, 2012, 11:45 GMT)

Last 2 matches India played against Pak, I have seen Kohli is playing Ajmal like a kid... Ajmal is only good against England or Aussie.... his Doosra's are picked by Kohli and cut for four... Watch the Asia cup and T20WC Match, you will realize that.

Posted by bigdhonifan on (November 10, 2012, 11:43 GMT)

@Haider Raja Lol, Even Swann said 2 days before Indian pitches are no more rank turners,, the one in UAE was build for a spinner... even I can take wickets against England with my offspin there.

Posted by dariuscorny on (November 10, 2012, 11:33 GMT)

we dont rate ajmal higher than herath,becoz our most average batsmen hit him all over the park even on dust bowls,let him perform in SA this year,which is going to be a massacre for whole Pak team filled with average players

Posted by dariuscorny on (November 10, 2012, 11:29 GMT)

@MickyBoy here you come,but we dont need a comedian here,please...

Posted by tearawayquick on (November 10, 2012, 11:11 GMT)

I think Sanjay has got the title of this article wrong...

This really doesn't go into the technicalities of how Ashwin can impove as a spinner and takes for granted that he is not going to be successful overseas..

Posted by WickyRoy.paklover on (November 10, 2012, 10:43 GMT)

@nirmalz,well ajmal took wickets against evry team i.e nz,eng,aus,sl.SANGAKARRA PLAYD HIM TO THE PERFECTION OTHER THAN THAT.EVRY BATSMAN STRUGLES AGAINST HIM,UR Ashwin Z at the most a club level bowlr outside india while he z "ok" in india.SORY MY FRIENDS ASHWIN Z NO WAY BETR THAN RAZA HASAN,REHMAN So he z merely a bal boy in front of ajmal N he z just way too ovr.rated just like kumble was,who at the most was comparable to kaneria(statisticaly)

Posted by afridi102 on (November 10, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

The only thing that can help Ashwin become world class is his batting. If he can be the solution of the all rounder for India.

His bowling is one of the worst overseas. He failed in Australian Test matches, could not take a single aussi wicket in the ODI's, has been smashed to all corners during recent world T20.

So, there is absolutely no chance for him to become a world class spinner. He is a good spinner and he will remain good. Nothing more.

If he can develop his batting and play at 7 for India, then he can help them big time.

Posted by shibuvin on (November 10, 2012, 10:07 GMT)

I am just foreseeing the pathetic situation, wherein Sachin is forced to retire from all form of Cricket. He got a wonderful chance after the World Cup win. But now, He is kinda trapped looking for a chance to retire. But It's gonna be Worse than Pathetic!!!

Posted by nirmalzz on (November 10, 2012, 9:57 GMT)

Ajmal is defienately a chucker.. Even many fingers had raised on his bowling. Ashwin is a much better match winner then Ajmal. Also, ajmal had taken most of wickets of poor batsmen who doesn't play spin well on turning pitches.

Posted by HarishVS on (November 10, 2012, 9:45 GMT)

One aspect of Ashwin's bowling I like most is that he quickly runs through tailenders (in India). Once Kumble retired, we hardly used to run through the sides in Tests and long partnerships with 100s of runs after the fall of 6th wicket became quite common by a no. of teams against India. The other main aspect I like is Ashwin's batting. He is absolute class and looks like a perfect top order batsman with good technique and elegant drives and pulls. He has made runs even in Australia against that quality pace bowlers. In fact he can be used to bat at No.6 permanently and can fill the allrounder's position that is so badly missing since Kapil Dev's retirement.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 9:44 GMT)

ashwin will play against england now,lets he what he does on rank turners, ajmal won pakistan the series against the no.1 ranked teanm england in UAE where conditions were not nearly as spin friendly as in india

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

ashwin better than ajmal you must be kidding open your eyes ,anyone who has even a little knowledge of cricket knows that ashwin isn't even in ajmal's class ajmal is the best spinner in the world, swann comes second,then narine and then ashwin mendis and the others

Posted by RockcityGuy on (November 10, 2012, 9:40 GMT)

@KiwiRocker...may i know who 'touted' ashwin as next ajmal?????i hope ashwin doesnt chuck like ajmal...i hope he doesnt wait till he's 35 to perform like ajmal...and i hope he takes wickets against all teams and not just zim ban eng like ajmal....I wish ashwin all the very best....!!!

Posted by PhaniBhaskar24 on (November 10, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

Sanjay missed a point here... Ashwin just tends to match with the mindset of Dhoni..Both have self belief & temparement at highest level. However, when Plan A doesn't work, Dhoni ( am sure ,even Ashwin) doesn't have Plan B. He simply goes with his confidence & result tends either ways. At test level, i wonder if that succeeds. Give the likes of Amla, Kallis, Younis Khan, Ricky, Clarke to sure he will withdraw his efforts of taking wickets in say 5 or 6th over of an test innings. I really feel sad, may be within a couple of year, even spinners cupboard will also be empty like the fast bowling in india today. ( i am true indian & team india fan)

Posted by ssenthil on (November 10, 2012, 9:23 GMT)

@KiwiRocker, ofcourse Ashwin is not a Sajeed Ajmal like chucking and as well as averaging 111.50 vs Australia in Aus unlike Ashwin Avgs's 62.50. So Who is better?

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 9:12 GMT)

A good pick for ipl......

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

Problem with all the current Indian bowlers is rather than them taking wickets, they rely on batsmen throwing their wicket, with the exception of ofcourse Zak, who in full flow can out think a batsmen by working over him ball by ball. Something which every Indian bowler should learn, esp the fast bowlers.

As far as spin bowling is concerned, there isnt any bowler on whom you can bank upon to take wickets in tests.

Posted by heartbreakerz on (November 10, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

ajmal is d best spinner n rankings show it...n those who r doubting his action, well read george dobell's article about d legality of ajmal's action...n d icc has cleared him so it doesnt matter what others say

Posted by ssenthil on (November 10, 2012, 8:46 GMT)

But one point I don't get it when Sanjay and others writing that when they saw him bowling at 2008 IPL, As per my knowledge he never part of any XI in 2008 IPL despite being in the CSK Squad and he got his first IPL match in 2009 at SA where he neither had a bowl or Bat as the Comma describe that Dhoni doesn't know Ashwin is a Bowler or Batsman or he has forgot he has included him in the side. He got his first bowling when CSK needed to defend something below 120 and he has bowled his 4 overs for 12 runs and CSK went on to win that. But he came to limelight only during 2010 IPL that too after he was hit out by Uthappa and dropped for next 4 or 5 matches and his comeback match onwards he became real star. This is how it happened but he had already lead TN to Domestic ODI championship (Vijay Hazare) in 2006-07 season already. He came to limelight becoz of IPL but he has done enough to secure a place already in his Domestic plays also IMO

Posted by Rajesh_india_1990 on (November 10, 2012, 8:42 GMT)

Ashwin is far better than the so called magician SAEED AJMAL..AJMAL's average in australia is 111 compared to ashwin's 60...

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 8:37 GMT)

Sanjay Sir has hit the nail on the head as regards Ashwin's potential, his frailties and his strengths as a cricketer. His analysis is very spot on, when you made an astute observation that Harbhajan really does not like at all being hit and for this very reason, he more often than not bowls flatter and shorter than what a spinner ought to bowl. Also mental toughness is the most vital facet to stay relevant in such grueling schedules being played almost on daily basis, so Kumble Sir can be a big help in preparing and mentoring him in coping with these things. All in all a cogent analytical and informative piece, thanks Sanjay sir.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 8:16 GMT)

Very good article Sanjay. You are 'on the dot' about using the body (i.e. more shoulder and upper arm) by the Indian finger & wrist spinners. Further, BCCI & our selectors are making a mistake by not nurturing the leg Spinners much. After Kumble's retirement, the Indian selectors have tried out 3 leg-spinners. Amit Mishra tasted initial success but soon went out of favour.The team thought he was "too slow in the air". That was when the selectors were grooming Mishra for Tests & Piyush Chawla for ODIs. Both failed to keep their jobs & now Punjab's Rahul Sharma has been sent with the India A team to New Zealand to see how he copes with pressure.Team India believes Sharma is competitive but lacks maturity. As for Chawla, they feel he has been working hard on his stock ball & understands his limitations. Mishra looks to be the front-runner now as he is looking good after coming back from injury, while we wait for Rahul Sharma or alternately groom the young Harmeet Singh & Anustup Majumdar.

Posted by nayonika on (November 10, 2012, 7:53 GMT)

Ashwin is also an engineering graduate like Venkat,Prasanna and Kumble and surely will follow their footsteps in becoming a world class spinner.

Posted by piyo_thanda_jiyo_thanda on (November 10, 2012, 7:24 GMT)

@KiwiRocker And most importantly Ashwin bends his arm less than 12 degrees and Ajmal bends his more than 15degrees. You should compare Ajmal to some shotput or frisbee thrower rather than some international bowler.

Posted by just_chill_chill on (November 10, 2012, 7:21 GMT)

Ashwin is like a whiff of fresh air in a world in which javelin throwers like Ajmal are present. Keep it going Ash. We know you are a star.

Posted by shaantanu on (November 10, 2012, 6:59 GMT)

@Kiwirocker:I guess u have got a point there.its the same as comparing umar akmal with tendulkar

Posted by ladycricfan on (November 10, 2012, 6:59 GMT)

Athleticism is in the genes and no amount of hardwork will make Ashwin an Usain Bolt. That is not to say he shouldn't work on his fitness. As for his performance in Autralia, even the genius Murali was unsuccessful there. Ashwin is young and inexperienced. He will get better with experience.

Posted by rn.umashankar on (November 10, 2012, 6:40 GMT)

When i saw R Ashwin bowl in IPL 2008, i hinted my friends that he has the potential to take India up from where Kumble left. He has just started doing that, indeed he needs to improve his fitness & sprinting ability. But we do have to remind ourselves he is a good middle order batsman too. India would have to start looking him as an Bowling All rounder for its future. His mental sturdiness is an big asset for him to become a successful all rounder. After the English & Aussie test he will surely be in the WORLD CLASS of what ever list.

Posted by Harshadegrate on (November 10, 2012, 6:38 GMT)

excellent article by sanjay.. hats off... ashwins biggest strength is his temperament and self belief. typically from dhonis school... ashwin transformed his ipl success to test cricket.. he accepted the responsibility of leadin the much famed indian spin attack in his debut games itself.. bajji s lookin lost. .too much emotional... s not gonna help.. its turned obvious tat if u gonna attack bhajji in his intial spell. . he s not gonna comeback the entire match.. one bowler i like to see in whites s rahul sharma who was warmin the benches fr three series.. is a bright prospect.. he uses his whole body.. tall extracts bounce.. like anil bhai.. he has a gud flipper.. he needs to work on his wrong one which s much slower.. he bowled very well. .he was ahead of ashwin in the odi and t20 matches they played together in australia...

Posted by cricket9lover on (November 10, 2012, 6:10 GMT)

well said by Sanjay Manjrekar well in my knowledge the bowlers like murli and shane warne used to do the same thing i.e using body also with fingers and arms to full extend thought I think shane warne was master of it and one can take few tips from his bowling.Ashwin bowling is clean he has a good action like warne but at times he makes his action a little comlpex while seeing warne approaching very calmly to bowling mark and using whole body at last moment with a perfect action was classsy.Ashwin need to learn the same thing so that he can get the sharp drift and turn which can make him a world class bowler who can take wickets in all conditions .As Sanjay Manjrekar said he needs to do now is work on his fitness in addition to that, clam while approaching bowling marking and giving it full at last moment with a sharp action would do.I think he is almost there.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 5:55 GMT)

Surprisingly, a nice article from Manjarekar. I had no idea the Aussies use their body to get the spin. Coming to the issue of Ashwin being a poor fielder - correction, he's a poor sprinter, but a brilliant diver and catcher.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 5:40 GMT)

Fantastic and insightful article by Sanjay Manjrekar. I love the Sidhu theory that a spinner can be defined by the ball they bowl after being hit for six.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (November 10, 2012, 5:04 GMT)

Anil Kumble got just 5 wickets in 3 Tests on his first visit to Australia in 1998. When he returned in 2003 he got 24 wickets in 3 Tests. Having watched him on TV on both those tours I did not see any change in his body action. His length had changed marginally and he had begun using the width of the crease. Prasanna on the other hand was a great success on his first tour itself in 1967 of Australia. Pras had a beautiful action and had the flight, drift and bowling plan that bowlers can only dream of. I have mentioned these two bowlers because both of them were engineers and very intelligent. So a lot of thought went into their play. Both of them have talked about their bowling in Australia. From everything that they have said it is clear that good looping flight,drift and planned field placement based on the batsman's weaknesses, inevitably leads to success. The right length to bowl is of course the most important ingredient without which everything else is useless.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 4:39 GMT)

Ashwin is being demystified rapidly, he has got variations no doubt, but got to have control over them.Seems like Bhajji would never return in the National side if Ashwin keeps going like this...

Posted by sk12 on (November 10, 2012, 4:29 GMT)

The photo pic concurs your point, left foot fully on the ground. Yesterday was watchin Lyon bowl, he seemed to put everything on the ball, body rotating about the left foot, on his toes at release point. Ashwin comes across a guy who is lazy (harsh word, agreed). he does seem eager to learn new things, but not wantign to put too much effort learnign them. Another difference from Bhajji is his height, which he seems to use pretty effectively.

Posted by riz309 on (November 10, 2012, 4:18 GMT)

he will take wickets only in india other than that he will make an average batsman look like a superstar drubbing is gonna be on the cards just check his ave.

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (November 10, 2012, 4:17 GMT)

If you cant play Ajmal that does not mean he chucks.. You guys are really funny the way you start comparing your ordinary players with legends of game. I remember irfan phatan was called wasim akram.. lol

Posted by rajesh121 on (November 10, 2012, 4:10 GMT)


Posted by GRVJPR on (November 10, 2012, 3:52 GMT)

Biggest strength of Ashwin is his clean bowling action. In era where bowlers like Ajmal bend their elbows and 'chuck', it is refreshing to see a young man playing the game fair.

Posted by Nppinte on (November 10, 2012, 3:40 GMT)

Good analysis Sanjay. I wonder how much leading the Tamil Nadu squad during the ICL exodus forged Ashwin's mental attitude to the game. His mental strength will remain his biggest strength no matter what he does. Its amazing how much a wicket in the first over or two would change Harbhajan- you could almost predict his chances of taking 5 wicket based on his first over irrespective of the pitch being spin friendly or not. I just dont see that happening with Ashwin. Much like Kumble, it looks like he will relentlessly plot through the day with the same intensity. He does need to learn to be less abrasive with the media though. Yes the fitness is an issue, but I hope he doesn't do a Suresh Raina on the fitness front and become a muscle bound mini bodybuilder. I don't know how that would affect his skill set wrt balance/perspective at point of delivery etc.

Posted by Akshita29 on (November 10, 2012, 3:21 GMT)

He can get wickets only in india and Srilanka and he will keep getting wickets in india but nowhere else .

Posted by prashnottz on (November 10, 2012, 3:17 GMT)

What is Manjrekar's obsession with fitness these days? Wasn't he the one who proclaimed Yuvraj was totally unfit and did not deserve selection?

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 3:07 GMT)

Spot on! He's a more thinking bowler than any in world cricket right now!

Posted by ramab on (November 10, 2012, 3:02 GMT)

I feel Ashwin needs to reduce about 5-10kgs to be more fitter and to successful in the long run especially outside the subcontinent. He can get marginally faster by reducing the weight, but note that speed cannot be taught.

Posted by caught_knott_bowled_old on (November 10, 2012, 2:58 GMT)

A very smart cricketer, Ashwin is a possible future India captain.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 2:52 GMT)


Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 2:39 GMT)

totally endorse your view here.someone like swann uses his whole body too.. but ashwin has flight and guile.. a session or two with bishen bedi and he can learn much more about offspin

Posted by ExtremeSpeed on (November 10, 2012, 2:36 GMT)

Ashwin is underrated by many he's a good spin bowler young and has years ahead of him plus can bat.

Posted by aaaa2aa on (November 10, 2012, 2:31 GMT)

"no bowler likes to get hit but ashwin's strength is he does not mind getting hit"you are right he has not played much international cricket i am pretty sure he will be quickly sorted out and trotted round the ball park after all that's his strength.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 2:26 GMT)

I think, Ashwin is one of the very few players whose international performance is better than their domestic performance, I could remember Michael Clarke another player. His international test bowling averge looks impressive, better than Kumble and Harbhajan.Ofcourse he is just 8 matches old. With mental toughness, he matches with Kumble and Harbhajan, but he is more intelligent than the other two. Between i noticed Harbhajan's bowling average is more than 32. I am not someone who hate Harbhajan as i respect him for his heroics in 2001 Australia series, but his performance is worse in the last 2-3 years or so.

Posted by indianpunter on (November 10, 2012, 2:14 GMT)

Ashwin is a terrible fielder, but there is a top 6 batsman in him. I predict that he will end up being a better batsman than a bowler by the time he finishes his career, ala Ravi Shastri. I was quite amazed at the time he had to play his shots against the quicks in Australia, where he was our third best batsman on show ( after Kohli and Tendulkar). He needs to work on his fielding though. In many ways, he reminds me of shastri; hope he turns out better than him and india would have found an asset.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 10, 2012, 2:14 GMT)

I think Ashwin has a GLORIOUS future. Some anti-Indians here will say other wise. He has got a solid technique while releasing the ball and he can definitely work on his variations. A bowler can only get better if he constantly challenges himself. This is why Ashwin should play more first class cricket in the form of 3 day and 4 day cricket. If possible (which is unlikely), he could make the odd trip to county cricket and spend some time there. It is okay to play T20s but I feel spinners get wickets in T20 cricket more so because of the batsmen. Still a long way to go for Ashwin but he's only a young man and I am sure he will bag loads of wickets against England and Australia in the upcoming season.

Posted by sportofpain on (November 10, 2012, 1:59 GMT)

Sanjay, This is no doubt a good analysis. Ashwin definitely has potential to be world class. At the same time I have to take issue with your sweeping statement that 'After hitting Harbhajan for a six, Sidhu would definitely have square-cut the next ball for four.' - you don't know that Sanjay and to think that Bhaji would fall prey to that (which btw is a pretty 1-2 punch by batsmen against spinners esp the amateur spinners) is to be dismissive of his massive accomplishments and his obvious class. 400 wickets don't lie - he may have become a bit defensive over the years but you are demeaning him while praising Ashwin and you don't have to do that. Bhaj has done yeoman service to Indian cricket and has a few good years left. Ashwin and Bhajji should play together along with Ojha - they would be a remarkable trio and would ensure the Indian fortress is impregnable.

Posted by MysticMan on (November 10, 2012, 1:31 GMT)

You are spot on, Sanjay! All of us saw that most batsmen were taking Ashwin on for an extra run in the recently concluded T20 tournaments. I am not defending Ashwin here but if you are as tall as him, there is a lot more inertia to move and the only way to overcome this is to train smart. Foot speed, work on legs especially quads and hamstring will make him stronger, fitter and faster. I hope he jump ropes every day (skipping) and practices agility/ sliding etc. and he will be an awesome spinner. Here is a player who has repeatedly bamboozled class batsmen (Samuels, Taylor etc.) with his carrom ball and the way it gathers speed after pitching is a sight to watch especially when batsmen lunge in futility to block it.

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (November 10, 2012, 1:20 GMT)

Sanjay is doing what numerous Indian journlists and so called pundits of the games have done for several years. Indian media beats up average skilled cricketers and make them into some tear away fast bowlers or mystery spinners.R.Ashwin has 9 wickets to show outside india with an average of 61. He is not Saeed Ajmal, Graeme Swann and so on. He has definitely got a good potential and he should be allowed to develop into a quilty bowler instead of beating him with all these theories. R.Ashwin has just started his career. He has yet to face strong batsmen of spin bowling,e.g Younis Khan, Clarke, Sangakara and Jaywardene outside.He has got a lot to prove. Everyone knows that Ashwin is a poor fielder, but he needs to work on his bowling skills to compensate.Ishant Sharma was touted next big thing, Pathan was compared with Wasim Akram, Yadev who has nothing to show for is some tear away fast bowler and now Ashwin is being touted as next Saeed Ajmal. I find thi hype unnecessary at this stage!

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (November 10, 2012, 0:50 GMT)

I doubt very much Mr Sanjay M.

Comments have now been closed for this article

Email Feedback Print
Sanjay ManjrekarClose

    The return of Bob Simpson

Rewind: When the 41-year-old former captain came out of retirement to lead Australia against India

    Ranji in Ireland, Hazare in Mumbai

Subash Jayaraman's cricket world tour takes in Dublin, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai

    Benn shows up in body and spirit

Tony Cozier: The spinner has brought in a sense of discipline into his bowling and behaviour on the field since his Test comeback

    A year of triumph and disaster

Martin Crowe: Misbah, McCullum, and the ICC's efforts against chucking were the positive highlights in a year that ended with the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death

Why Steven Smith's here to stay

Russell Jackson: He has experienced captaincy at every level. Most admirably, he has managed to reinvent his game to succeed at the highest level

News | Features Last 7 days

The perfect Test

After the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death, this match showed that cricket and life will continue to go on. This time Test cricket dug in and got through to tea.

Kohli attains batting nirvana

Virat Kohli's innings on the final day transcended the conditions, the bowlers and his batting partners, and when it was all in vain, he displayed remarkable grace in defeat

What ails Rohit and Watson?

Both batsmen seemingly have buckets of talent at their disposal and the backing of their captains, but soft dismissals relentlessly follow both around the Test arena

Hazlewood completes quartet of promise

Josh Hazlewood has been on Australian cricket's radar since he was a teenager. The player that made a Test debut at the Gabba was a much-improved version of the tearaway from 2010

Australia in good hands under proactive Smith

The new stand-in captain has the makings of a long-term leader, given his ability to stay ahead of the game

News | Features Last 7 days

    BCCI's argument against DRS not 100% (164)

    Turning your back on a system that the whole cricketing world wants a discussion on, refusing to discuss it because it is not 100%, is not good enough

    Karn struggles to stay afloat (114)

    The failed gamble of handing Karn Sharma a Test debut despite him having a moderate first-class record means India have to rethink who their spinner will be

    Kohli attains batting nirvana (110)

    Virat Kohli's innings on the final day transcended the conditions, the bowlers and his batting partners, and when it was all in vain, he displayed remarkable grace in defeat

    When defeat isn't depressing (57)

    After a long time we have seen an Indian team and captain enjoy the challenge of trying to overcome stronger opposition in an overseas Test

    What ails Rohit and Watson? (53)

    Both batsmen seemingly have buckets of talent at their disposal and the backing of their captains, but soft dismissals relentlessly follow both around the Test arena