Galle is not a place easy to forget. Not if your Test career, which is now in full flow, underwent a resurgence here. Not if you are coming back to play your 50th Test here. R Ashwin, looking destined to threaten India's bowling records, will turn 50 Tests old on Wednesday. He was glad that he was reaching the milestone at the Galle International Stadium.
"To come back to a place where I did really well last time in 2015 is like a dream come true because it was some sort of a momentous occasion for me then because I was on the way back into the Test side and I got a six-for on the first day and went on to get a 10-for on the third day," Ashwin said. "It brings back a lot of good memories, coming back to the same venue. And 50th Test is definitely something that has come about. I am not able to go back and retrace how I did it but I am very grateful to have gotten here. I think every Test match is a blessing from here on."
From Galle to Galle, Ashwin said he has become a more rounded cricketer and person. "For starters, I'm a lot calmer from what I was then," he said. "I think I was a little bit more like a cat on a hot tin roof, so to say. I was looking forward to performing desperately because sometimes my performances need to be that much more better for me to get anywhere in my career, so I've always lived that way and it's kind of changed me over a period of time.
"I do take things in the stride - fairly bad days, ordinary days and mediocre days are a part of a cricketer's career. It's important to learn from that and try and get better. I think I've become a far better cricketer than what I was when I came here in 2015. I just hope that if at all I come back again, I would be a far better cricketer than what I am today."
One of the lessons he has learned, Ashwin said, was to not set himself too many targets. "Looking behind, I might have set some targets but I won't be setting any targets looking ahead," he said. "That's what the past has taught me. You can't get ahead of yourself, you can't set milestones, you can't set records for yourself in the future. The most important thing is to try and get better every single day because international cricket is very cruel and it can really sort you out if you are sitting back on your past laurels. It's very important to put it behind. Yes, you can have a cup of coffee and think about it and reminisce it really well but it is very important to take one Test match and one day at a time."
Ashwin spoke of the pressures of maintaining a place in the India side, but at the same time said that shouldn't be the sole goal of a cricketer. "Especially in the Indian team, I would say yes," he said, when asked if staying in the team is as tough as breaking into it, "because the amount of pressure that you're put in, not only from within the team but also from outside, the external factors. And also, you have to understand that this is an excellent Indian team.
"If you look at the teams around the world, they do get an extended run. Youngsters do get to play a few more games than they get to play in India. That's because of the kind of team we've put on the park. We do have some excellent cricketers sitting outside as well. It is a lot of pressure but sustaining or holding on to a position is not something that will go well with an excellent side, a side that is striving for excellence needs to have excellent cricketers looking to get well past their previous best. That's how I'd like to put it, and this Indian team is quite an excellent side, we all know that."
One of the times when Ashwin failed to keep his place in the side was in the Adelaide Test of 2014-15, when, on captaincy debut, Virat Kohli chose to go with the unheralded legspinner Karn Sharma ahead of Ashwin. Asked if his equation with the captain had changed now that he was his go-to bowler, Ashwin said: "If I have to answer that bluntly it might look a little awkward but it doesn't mean very much to me to be honest. As a cricketer I only want to be excellent, I don't want to be a survivor by any stretch of imagination. If it doesn't go my way it doesn't go my way. I can do well in a lot of other careers in my life. I do think I'm intelligent enough to cope on with it. I don't like to hold onto things desperately.
"I will only do so till I enjoy it. The day I think I cannot improve any more or cannot be excellent, I cannot perform at the best of my abilities, I don't think anybody needs to tell me. I'm not a desperate person that way. I have a lot of pride in myself. I think I can do so much and all my disappointments, all my improvements, the way I talk, stems from the fact that I can be excellent. From then on equations change and equations remain the same, but I think it's only my attitude towards the game and performance that has changed over the years."