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Ashwin's strength has been his ability to bowl at any stage of the innings, but he could do with a few more wickets in the middle overs
June 28, 2013
India's match against West Indies in the Champions Trophy was the 50th ODI of R Ashwin's career. He played his first match almost exactly three years ago - in June 2010, in the low-profile triangular tournament in Zimbabwe - and didn't immediately become a regular member of the team, playing only two of India's nine matches in the 2011 World Cup. Since then, however, he has cemented his place as India's first-choice ODI spinner, and has played in 44 of their last 49 matches. With 74 wickets from 53 matches, Ashwin is already eighth among Indian spinners who have taken the most wickets in ODIs. Just one above him is Ravindra Jadeja, who has 82 from 70 ODIs, and has grown by leaps and bounds as a spinner in 2013, taking 25 wickets in 12 games at an economy rate of 3.50. Together they have ensured that India's spin act is a reliable one, in ODIs at least.
In Tests, Ashwin has been a blow-hot, blow-cold performer - out of the five series he has played, he averages less than 23 with the ball in three, and more than 50 in two - but in ODIs he has been far more consistent. In 52 innings, he has gone at more than a run a ball seven times, while 14 times he has conceded four or less than four an over. Thirty-five times out of 52 his economy rate has been five an over or better, which is pretty good in an era of high scores.
Ashwin has played more than 60% of his ODIs in Asia, where pitches are usually more favourable to spinners, but he also has reasonable numbers elsewhere: in 20 matches outside the continent, he averages 32 at an economy rate of 4.78, which is also his overall economy rate. His stats are especially impressive in England - 14 wickets in ten matches at 23.71.
One area where his stats have dropped recently is his wicket-taking ability in Asia. In his first 25 matches (till the end of 2011), Ashwin played 17 in Asia - all of them in India - and took 30 wickets at an average of 25.53. Since the beginning of 2012, he has played 16 games in Asia, and taken only 20 wickets at 36.40. The economy rates haven't changed much, but the lack of wickets is reflected in the change in strike rates - from 32.6 to 44.7.
|Period||Matches||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Strike rate|
|Till Dec 2011||25||39||27.07||4.77||34.0|
|Jan 2012 onwards||28||35||34.65||4.79||43.3|
|Matches||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Strike rate|
|Period||Matches||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Strike rate|
|Till Dec 2011||17||30||25.53||4.69||32.6|
|Jan 2012 onwards||16||20||36.40||4.88||44.7|
In the 53 ODIs that Ashwin has played, India's overall economy rate for all bowlers is 5.16, compared to Ashwin's 4.78. The other Indian bowlers together have averaged 35.56, and conceded 5.26 runs per over.
|Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Strike rate|
|Other Indian bowlers||278||35.56||5.26||40.6|
Splitting up Ashwin's overs by the stages of the innings in which he has bowled, it's clear that he's been pretty economical most times he has been called upon to bowl, but hasn't always been among the wickets. He has bowled only 25 overs within the first ten but has taken six wickets, conceding 5.20 runs per over. His economy rates are pretty good between the 11th and 35th overs, but his lack of wickets in this period is a bit of a concern. Over these 25 overs, Ashwin has taken only 36 wickets at an average of 38.80, and an economy rate of 4.37. That's an area he'll want to improve upon, given that he is principally an attacking spinner, and the main wicket-taking option India have in the middle overs (though Jadeja has made significant progress in this aspect over the last few months).
Lack of wickets was also the main criticism against Harbhajan Singh, and it's interesting that Harbhajan's middle-overs stats were pretty similar in his last few years with India. Since the beginning of 2009, Harbhajan played 49 ODIs for India, and during this period he took 33 wickets in the middle overs (between the 11th and 35th), at an average of 41.06 and an economy rate of 4.28. Clearly, in this aspect there's little to choose between him and Ashwin.
However, between the 36th and 40th overs - which is often the period when the batting Powerplay is taken - Ashwin has taken plenty of wickets and gone at less than a run a ball. In the last ten overs too his economy rate is less than six. During the corresponding period, Harbhajan, since 2009, averaged 25 at an economy rate of 6.00.
|First 10 overs||150||6||21.67||5.20|
|10.1 to 20||810||10||59.60||4.41|
|20.1 to 35||1104||26||30.80||4.35|
|35.1 to 40||433||19||21.05||5.54|
|40.1 to 50||348||13||26.30||5.89|
Apart from being fairly consistent across stages of an innings - though he could do with a few more wickets in the middle overs - Ashwin also has similar stats against right-handers and left-handers. The economy rates are almost exactly the same, while the average is marginally better against right-handers.
And finally, a look at where Ashwin stands when compared to the other spinners who have taken 50 or more ODI wickets in the last three years. The table below shows that Saeed Ajmal and Sunil Narine are the leaders in terms of wicket-taking ability; Mohammad Hafeez is the most economical of the lot, followed by Narine. Ashwin's average and economy rate are among the higher ones, and Jadeja has better numbers on both counts, thanks to his phenomenal run in 2013. Ashwin is also one of only two bowlers in this list not to take a single haul of four or more wickets.
Overall, Ashwin hasn't done badly in his first three years as an ODI player; a few more wickets, though, would fill up his resume nicely.
|Bowler||ODIs||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Strike rate||4+ wkts|
|Shakib Al Hasan||44||66||27.40||4.73||34.7||3|
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on TwitterFeeds: S Rajesh
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