R Ashwin hopes to unleash a few new tricks at the Champions Trophy, to stay one step ahead of his opponents. The India offspinner, who missed the IPL with sports hernia, said on Wednesday that the constant evolution of the game, including the rule changes in 50-overs cricket, pushed him to keep working on newer things.
"There have been a lot of rule changes in terms of what ICC has done to the one-day format of the game. And there is no point in going in with the same set of skills time and again, and let the game change your skill," Ashwin said during the CEAT tyres annual awards function in Mumbai. "It has been going through my head and I have been working on a lot of stuff based on how the game is changing.
"I might be able to do something new in this tournament hopefully. I think I am equipped enough to do it. Hopefully these two practice games [against New Zealand and Bangladesh] will give me an indication about how well I go in this tournament, and how well my variations will come to fore. So, just hoping that these practice matches can be put to good use and I bring in something in new to the table and give something new to the team"
Ashwin said he always prepared for limited-overs cricket with the mindset that the conditions were stacked against the bowlers. "That's the way the game is," he said. "I generally expect placid wickets, and that's the way you prepare for a limited-overs competition.
"I think my biggest strength is adaptation and seeing what lies ahead of me six months down the line. I don't plan for the next tour or [the] many tours coming up. But I see how the game is shaping up six months down the line, what sort of challenges the game will throw at me and how I can hit back at teams and players, how I can hit back at challenges in terms of rules and in terms of what are the formations happening around.
"I call my own theory as red flags in front of me. I see these red flags and try and circumvent them to get to the distance I want. I don't want feel surprised when it is thrown at me. That's exactly how I approached all along, ever since I have had a little bit of maturity in my life. Poker and cricket are same. You go all in, you try and come out on top. If you are not prepared to go all in, there is always going to be a fear of failure and you are always going to come second."
Ashwin wasn't too concerned over his lack of match practice in the last couple of months, and said the time off was invested in training. "I am not too concerned in terms of how short I have been of match practice. I am pretty raring to go. The intent of being mentally and physically fresh was very important.
"I was going through an injury which was hampering me from putting my best performance on the park. It was time I took some time out and train pretty hard. All I have done is actually train and try and tick boxes that I thought was necessary. That's what I have done in the last one and a half months. It has not been about a holiday or anything like that."
As for India's prospects of defending the title, he echoed captain Virat Kohli's sentiments of not getting bogged down by the expectations. "As far as I am concerned, handling pressure is all about one game at a time," he said. "If you think too far ahead and try and think you are defending the title, it is going to put unnecessary undue pressure on you. But, as you build up every game and try and gain momentum into the tournament, you start becoming that hot favourite."