West Indies v India, 3rd Test, St Lucia, 2nd day August 10, 2016

Ashwin says altering approach helped him at No. 6


R Ashwin has been India's second-highest scorer so far in this series behind only captain Virat Kohli © Associated Press

R Ashwin has a career strike rate of 55.35 with the bat. But in his first three innings at No. 6, he has scored his runs at 40.90. Speaking to the media after scoring his second hundred of those three innings, and becoming only the fourth allrounder ever to score two hundreds and take two five-wicket hauls in the same Test series, Ashwin said his promotion up the order had induced a conscious change of approach with the bat.

"It's difficult to try and think too far ahead [at No. 6]," Ashwin said. "That's easily possible if you are batting at No. 7 or 8, which has happened to me before when I have batted at No. 8. When I have batted at No. 8, you think like a bowler at times and want to get a few extra runs. So I used to play a few more shots.

"Thankfully I had a very good preparation one month before the series. I batted quite a lot and devised a gameplan if and when I got a chance to bat at No. 6. The idea was to knock as many balls as possible. My goal is very simple. If I get a good start, if I get to 20 runs then I'm going to capitalise on it. Then I'm going to play percentage cricket. It's all about trying to play the percentages and trying to string together a partnership and not look too far ahead in the game.

"One thing I try to do is to bat sessions. There have been times when I've scored hundreds in two sessions or less than two sessions. This is kind of different, but I do enjoy it. It's time-consuming and concentration-consuming but it's enjoyable."

Ashwin came in to bat at 87 for 4, and was joined by Wriddhiman Saha at 126 for 5. They added 213 for the sixth wicket, allowing India to post a first-innings total of 353. Ashwin said his 118, which lasted 297 balls and was his longest Test innings - could prove a "series-defining" effort.

"It is indeed," he said, when asked if he considered it a special hundred. "I mean if we look at the scenario in hindsight later on, this could very well be a series-defining knock because we were in some trouble yesterday and there was every chance that we could be skittled out and also I thought it needed a bit of application.

"It was not like making a hundred back home or anywhere in the world. I'm sure about that because it was definitely not a wicket where you could just plonk your front foot and play through the line. It was a hard-fought day yesterday and it was no different today. We just hope we can capitalise on the rearguard action later tomorrow."

Given West Indies' bowling discipline, a bit of help from the surface, and a slow outfield, Ashwin only hit six fours and a six in his innings. While Saha played his shots after negotiating the first hour of the morning session, he too went through periods of almost pure defence. Ashwin said it had been "very difficult to score" at times.

"When we got together we were in quite a bit of trouble and it was one of the wickets, I don't know whether it's improving any bit, where you are not in at any time," he said. "There was a good chance that you might be nicked off or you might get a good ball any time. It was very difficult to score.

"So we went and bit the bullet quite hard and wanted to just stick in there even if the runs weren't quite coming. Obviously, the results came later on. It was a good partnership and both enjoyed each other's company to be very honest."

Having batted with Saha in the past and watched him in first-class cricket, Ashwin knew what to expect from him.

"I think we've batted a few times in the past," he said. "Even [in Sydney] we put together a gritty partnership. The thing with Saha is he puts a price on his wicket and he's a damn good player of spinners. He can tonk the ball, that I know from having played first-class cricket with him.

"I know Saha pretty well and the communication was sticking around rather than look for avenues to score. It was just that even if we played a couple of maiden overs, we wanted to tell each other that we need to keep going and it was not about the maiden overs they keep bowling."

During the partnership, Ashwin said he and Saha had also picked up clues that might help India's bowlers later on.

"When Saha and me were batting, we were communicating about which way the ball was swinging, what the bowler was trying to do. There was a lot of help when the bowlers bowled cross-seam, and we've communicated to the bowlers and we hope they will find their rhythm tomorrow as well."

West Indies began strongly in their reply, ending the second day 107 for 1, with Kraigg Brathwaite batting on 53. Ashwin said India would need to stay patient and try to capitalise whenever a new batsman was at the crease.

"Long partnerships came in, one breakthrough and somebody gets into a spell. That's what we're looking at. If and when a couple of wickets fall, we can squeeze and jam them in.

"The thing is that [West Indies] did get some momentum, I believe, from the Jamaica Test, but that's how Test cricket is like. We didn't come over here thinking or expecting to roll them over. They're also a Test team, and in their home conditions, it's going to be hard and we expected it."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   BskCultGarage on August 13, 2016, 19:59 GMT

    @Deturzo I have become a fan of your knowledge over cricket. A fine polished version of my sub-conscious thought

  • Sadman on August 12, 2016, 9:53 GMT

    You never can compare the allrounders. It's unfair coz all of them vary in strength. Like all of Ashwin, Holder, Woakes, Broad etc. are bowling allrounders. On the other hand, Mathews, Marsh, Behardien, Duminy etc. all are batting allrounders. Only Shakib, Santner, Stokes & Ali are pure allrounders. They can bat at any position & can take a 5 wicket haul too. Though Ali & Santner are yet to prove their ability, I predict them to be successful. A pure allrounder never fails coz his ability never puts him out of form. To be honest, as the like of Kallis, Watson, Oram, Yuvraj etc. are retired, I back Shakib & Stokes to be the best of this generation

  • sam on August 12, 2016, 7:25 GMT

    However hard we try (and I know that Ashwin is India's best test cricketer by far) the truth is Ashwin will never be a proper No. 6. Ashwin is definitely a proper No. 7. MSD was a proper No. 6 at home (not away) even though MSD batted at 7 mostly. Proper No. 6 needs to bat like a proper test batsman. Ashwin has too many problems against quality spin and swing. By the way even Raina, Rohit and Yuvraj weren't proper No. 6 test batsmen. Anyway, on home pitches we might try playing just 4 bowlers unless the wicket is flat. Mostly 3 spinners and 1 seamer as we will play on turners. And get a proper No. 6 batsman. Shreyas Iyer or Jalaj Saxena (batting all-rounder who bowls off-spin). I like Saxena because he both opens and sometimes at 6 for Madhya Pradesh and on rank turners takes a lot of wickets though normally goes wicketless on green wickets. Saxena can give Ashwin some break from bowling for a five over spell without letting down the pressure.

  • Adam on August 12, 2016, 6:32 GMT

    Good luck to R. Ashwin batting at 6. Long may it continue... Say the England team. Especially once Anderson continues removing Kohli for low scores. It will give England and great chance of losing the series by only one match.

  • tochandra@gmail.com on August 11, 2016, 17:15 GMT

    I do not think there need to be discussion and an outcome on whether Ashwin is an all rounder or not. He is the best India has got, to play at No.6, while playing 5 bat/5 bow+WK. How many times this has happened to India before, where your best test bowler can play at No.6 and score 2 hundereds in away test series? Probably only with Kapil Dev. So, Enjoy while Ashwin keeps socring runs and takes wickets and drop discussing about whether he is all rounder or not. Just because India does not have and need to develop an all rounder like Kallis or 75% of his capabilities even, does not mean, Ashwin should not be considered all rounder. Wearing Indian jersey and a test cap, he is the best all rounder there is in India, who can fit the bill of 5Bat+5Bow+WK and proven time and again.

  • ARVIND on August 11, 2016, 14:06 GMT

    It is unfair to compare all-rounders. Every allrounder has his strengths/limitations and his performance also depends on format, other players in the team, his primary role, batting position, no of overs he gets to bowl, etc. Kallis was underbowled throughout his career as SA were only interested in his batting skills. Watson & Klusener were good in ODIs but struggled in Tests. Shakib does a great job but in teams having a strong batting lineup, he may not have got opportunities to bat on top of the order. Allrounders have to be judged on a case to case basis.

  • Chitrabhanu on August 11, 2016, 10:52 GMT

    Only in India you will see people talking about retirement, substitute etc of a player who is in his pomp, just scored a century and all probability will play another 25 30 test matches!!! An indian fan :-)

  • vikar on August 11, 2016, 10:33 GMT

    Ashwin never been considered all rounder in domestic cricket. It just his shear application and mental strength that brought this far. I still dont consider him as an all-rounder. He is a match-winner with ball but probably cant be conidered as a match-winner with bat. Sametime he is a utility batsman. I rate him as the bowler version of Viru Sehwag. Even Viru did a good amount of bowling. I think he can continue as a no 6 till India gets a top wicket keeper batsman. Saha is not going to be that dependable. So selecters need to unearth a top wk batsman from somewhere. Let see how Samson fires comming season

  • Danny on August 11, 2016, 9:26 GMT

    sekharbobba, plain and simply no he wont. Kallis scored 13k runs, Ashwin has 1.4k and is 29. Plus he is still 100 wickets behind him so let him get there first..... I know you are excited but calm down. He scores a ton, on average every 8.75 tests. He needs 16 to get to 20. That's another 140 tests. To get 600 wickets at his current rate is 109 tests. The man is 29. They are different AR's. Kallis was a batting AR, Ashwin is a bowling AR. Yes, both have demonstrated good skill in their second role but if you were picking them to play one role in the side, Kallis bats Ashwin bowls. He would compare more to someone like Woakes (no I am not calling them equal but he is the same type of AR). Oh and Kallis has 45 test tons. Its laughable to even think about comparing. This is in no way me putting down Ashwin, actually respect and rate him.

  • sam on August 11, 2016, 8:58 GMT

    On this flat pitch India are in a lot of trouble. Almost no assistance for Indian pacers and spinners and in such circumstances against long batting lineups India tend to concede between 500-650 away from home. And on top that India are batting with only 3 proper batsmen (Rahul, Kohli, Rahane) and 2 out of position (Kohli and Rahane at 3,4). Vagaries of not being smart enough. I think after watching the pitch behave as it did it was a mistake to play Bhuvi over Umesh but India couldn't have known that beforehand. And disappointing batting from Bhuvi and Jadeja; they should have added at least 25 runs each on that flat pitch. We expect Ashwin (our best test cricketer by far) to do everything for us. Especially covering for all of Kohli's blunders (both selection and tactical). Previous test Kohli did not bring on Ashwin at the start of day 5; he waited for 15 overs. Yesterday, Ishant deserved new ball at least for 3 overs vs Brathwaithe. Too many mistakes. India could lose this one.

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