June 28, 2013

Ashwin's ODI report card

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

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.

R Ashwin's ODI career
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
Career 53 74 30.66 4.78 38.4
Ashwin in ODIs, in Asia and outside Asia
  Matches Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
In Asia 33 50 29.88 4.78 37.4
Outside Asia 20 24 32.29 4.78 40.5
Ashwin in Asia, before and since 2011
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.

In the 53 ODIs that Ashwin has played...
  Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Other Indian bowlers 278 35.56 5.26 40.6
Ashwin 74 30.66 4.78 38.4

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.

Ashwin's ODI overs, split up by period of the innings
  Balls Wickets Average Econ rate
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.

Ashwin v right- and left-handers in ODIs
  Balls Runs* Wickets Average Econ rate
Right-handers 1843 1423 49 29.04 4.63
Left-handers 1003 777 25 31.08 4.64

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.

Spinners who have taken 50 or more ODI wickets since June 2010
Bowler ODIs Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate 4+ wkts
Saeed Ajmal 58 102 20.59 4.18 29.5 5
Sunil Narine 31 52 22.09 3.96 33.4 3
Ravindra Jadeja 46 62 26.90 4.60 35.0 2
Shakib Al Hasan 44 66 27.40 4.73 34.7 3
Robin Peterson 37 51 27.78 4.91 33.9 2
Graeme Swann 47 66 28.07 4.51 37.3 2
Abdur Razzak 48 63 29.26 4.50 38.9 4
R Ashwin 53 74 30.66 4.78 38.4 0
Mohammad Hafeez 73 64 32.50 3.78 51.4 0
Shahid Afridi 61 73 33.13 4.64 42.7 7

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arulprakash on June 29, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    You are comparing Harbhajan in the later part of his career to Ashwin at the beginning of his career. When Ashwin gets the experience that Harbhajan had in 2009 Ashwin would be a top class bowler.

    Plus Harbhajan didnt have to bowl with two new balls, powerplays and t20 era.

  • TR on June 28, 2013, 23:19 GMT

    Amazing Jadeja has raised next to Ajmal & Narine. The issue with Ashwin is I think too many variations. It is good to be ambitious and have many variation, but how many of them can he bowl accurately at the spot where he wants to? Its not easy. I am seeing many very short deliveries when he bowls carrom balls. Even Sachin Tendulkar bowls many kinds of deliveries. Unless the bowler practices hours every day its not possible to get such control pitching the ball on the spot at will. More variations means, more hours got to go in the practice. Not sure how much time these guys get to practice, when playing series after series non stop.

  • Al on June 28, 2013, 18:23 GMT

    Ashwin's style of bowling with carom ball, etc. is more suited to ODI and T20. For test matches we need a more orthodox off spinner, someone like Parvez Rasool. He is a classic off spinner, in the mold of Graeme Swann. Hailing from cricketing back waters of Kashmir, Parvez lacks support from the establishment. But some one no less than the legendary Bedi thinks highly of him. Our selectors need to be brave and select him for the upcoming test series in South Africa.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2013, 16:05 GMT

    This is a good article analysing all aspects yes.. truly played game with numbers

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2013, 15:59 GMT

    Ashwin has to improve his wicket taking ability to compete himself with his peers' averages. He is a thinking bowler and re-discover abilities at frequencies. He has a capability to show performance and go beyond other Indian bowing legends like Kumble. but he needs support from other seniors in the team as well for that.

  • Ilam on June 28, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    The changed rules mandating 5 inside circle is actually good for the bowlers and runs won't leak as easily before. Not just Ashwin, more middle over bowlers will start doing better. I hope there is at least another spinner or 2 pushing for Ashwin's place else he might get complacent. Jadeja partially did that already though!

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    Well during Harbajan's time Yuvraj took a lot of wickets. Is it safe to assume that the batsman have looked to milk the likes of Harbajan and Ashwin in middle orders, while looking to attack Yuvraj and Jadeja, allowing them to get more wickets. Ofcourse not trying to demean yuvraj and jadeja, as that is what bowling in partnership is all about - building pressure from both ends which both wicket takers did effectively. They will be a period when batsmen look at Jadeja's recent form and identify him as a threat bowler, and milking him while trying to attack ashwin - allowing him to get wickets instead. Don't think it is much to worry about.

  • bhu on June 28, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    i think partly the wicket that spinner gets also depends upon captain and the fields employed by captain. even though dhoni has won every one day competition but still i would stick my neck out and say dhoni is not a great captain, reflected by the kind of fields he gives to spinner and the bowling changes which usuall defy logic but somehow work. for an offspinner it is important to employ a field which encourages the batsmen to drive and to leave a gap for this as when batsman drives offspinner he has more chances of getting out. same way making batsman hit in air to get runs gets more wickets and this somehow is not evident in Dhonis captaincy and hence indian spinners getting less no of wickets than counterparts.

  • Sathish on June 28, 2013, 11:22 GMT

    We cannot compare Ashwin stats with Harbhajan because Harbhajan did not play with new rules 4 players outside the circle. With the new rule India has played more matches compared with others and which is why we see less wickets and more economy rate.

  • Paul on June 28, 2013, 11:00 GMT

    His batting is not bad either. At his very best he can remind you of VVS?