India v South Africa, World T20, semi-final

Guts key to spin bowling - Ashwin

R Ashwin believes the "guts" shown by the Indian spinners to flight the ball and overcome the fear of being hit in T20s has been the major factor for India's success

Abhishek Purohit in Mirpur

April 4, 2014

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A
Manjrekar: Ashwin, Mishra's skills have helped India

A legspinner tossing the ball high, giving it a rip with his wrist to lure the batsman out before getting it to dip, grip, turn and earning a stumping. An offspinner tossing the ball high, giving it a tweak with his fingers to draw the batsman forward, getting it to drift, grip, turn and earning an outside edge to slip. These are not dismissals you normally associate with Twenty20 cricket. But these are just two instances of what Amit Mishra and R Ashwin have been able to achieve in this World T20.

Both spinners have had principal roles to play in each of India's four successive victories in the group stage. On three of those occasions, they have not had the weight of runs backing them, as India relied on their preferred strategy of chasing. All three of those matches - against Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh - were 'live' ones, with qualification for the knockouts dependent on their results. Mishra was the Man of the Match against Pakistan and West Indies; Ashwin got the award against Bangladesh.

Two subcontinent sides supposedly accustomed to playing spin, and a third which has backed itself to hit the big shots under pressure, and have done so in crunch matches against Pakistan and Australia. None of them managed even 140 against the Indians.

The conditions have been spinner-friendly in Bangladesh, particularly so in Dhaka. MS Dhoni has said it has been one of the main reasons why the Indian slow bowlers have done so well. Ravindra Jadeja hasn't been among them, though. It is not really his style to lure batsmen with flight and guile.

But no matter how much the conditions support you, it takes tremendous heart for a spinner to bowl slow when the temptation is to fire it in quick. To overcome the ever-present fear of getting hit in T20 and toss the ball up. For one spinner to do it in a single T20 is itself remarkable. For two in the same XI to do it over the course of a world tournament with so much control is incredible. Ashwin, and particularly Mishra's, biggest achievement this World T20 has been to consistently beat this fear, and do so without the security of a big total to defend every time it mattered.

This absence of fear, or presence of "guts", over four matches is what South Africa will be up against. It was a term Ashwin used several times ahead of India's semi-final clash. "In terms of variation of pace, you need a lot of guts," Ashwin said. "If you're at the top of your game, you can land the ball exactly where you want it to land.

But apart from that, to actually slow the ball down when the batsman's going after you is a key component of this particular game, for which you need quite a lot of guts. And if you've gone for a six, it requires even more guts to come back the next ball. Those are the key components of a winning game, as far as I'm concerned."

It tells you a lot about a spinner's state of mind when he says the ball is behaving as he wills it. "In the last two or three months, I feel that I'm probably at the top of my bowling game," Ashwin said. "When I reach that phase, I pretty much don't practice at all. That's a phase I'm in right now. The ball is landing exactly where I want."

South Africa will have to counter Mishra and Ashwin on a helpful and unfamiliar surface - they have been playing in Chittagong so far - and that too in a knockout. Bowlers have not had to contend with heavy dew turning the ball into soap in Dhaka, like it did so often in Chittagong.

South Africa have probably the most nerveless innovator among current limited-overs batsmen in AB de Villiers, and they will need to keep calm when it comes to taking on spin. South Africa also have the Super 10 stage's leading wicket-taker in Imran Tahir, who's managed 11 wickets in less helpful conditions with his mix of quick sliders and googlies.

He's had a well-publicised visit from Shane Warne in the Mirpur nets. Will he stick to what has worked for him in Chittagong, or will he use more flight and turn like the Indians have? Whatever method he uses, Ashwin said it would again come down to the same word - guts.

"When it comes to international cricket, there's a very small margin between the quality of spinners. Everybody's bound to have a certain amount of quality in them. It's all about the mental make-up of the spinner and the amount of guts he has in that particular scenario," Ashwin said. "It'll be handling pressure that makes the difference, because Imran Tahir has been in top form. And I expect (Aaron) Phangiso to play. When that happens, you're pretty much evened out on the amount of spinners both teams will play. It comes down to how well your spinners handle it."

Apart from pressure, the spinners might also have to deal with a wet outfield, as rain is expected around the time of the match on Friday. The last time rain came down in an India game in a World T20, against Australia in 2012 in Colombo, it contributed to their exit from the tournament, as their three spinners found it difficult to grip the ball. Even Mishra and Ashwin, for all their heart, could struggle if it rains again.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (April 5, 2014, 7:32 GMT)

Great performance by Ashwin. Now his critics are not to be seen. May be they can try to say this is flat pitch and what happens in Aus Saf Nz pitches blaw blaw blaw.:)

Posted by SHP_LovesCricket on (April 4, 2014, 21:34 GMT)

Ashwin and Indian team's performance today should shut the mouth of all the bashing commenters here.. Great performance.. Keep going India..

Posted by   on (April 4, 2014, 19:54 GMT)

A lot of anti Ashwin comments here. I'm not his biggest fan but he controlled the game today and bowled a wonder ball to get Amla. Ashwin does need to improve drastically outside the subcontinent but he delivered a match winning performance today.

Posted by Jagger on (April 4, 2014, 14:34 GMT)

Mirpur is a spinners utopia. Bowl your carrom ball at the WACA and see how much guts you have!

Posted by   on (April 4, 2014, 12:30 GMT)

Imran thair will spin india wickets out of the ground

Posted by Raman.UV on (April 4, 2014, 12:27 GMT)

@CricketpunditUSA- First see the stats of Hadbhajan, Murali, Ajmal, Narine Mustaq before commenting on them and compare ur Ashwin Asia and overseas record this will open ur blocked mind..Ashwin is just a below avg bowler who completely depends on the conditions and picth to get the wickets unlike the other bowlers which u mentioned.....

Posted by Raman.UV on (April 4, 2014, 12:23 GMT)

Well.... Stats clears says it clearly that Ashwin is below avg bowler when he goes outside Asia.... He is a confused bowler when the conditions are not supporting for his spin... And bhaji is much better bowler than this gutsy guy when he is in form. Ojha and Mishra are much better than Aswin in tests when playing both overseas and in India...

Posted by   on (April 4, 2014, 11:32 GMT)

my GUT feeling says...ashwins flighted delivery ll be smacked by AB...

Posted by CricketpunditUSA on (April 4, 2014, 11:26 GMT)

Being a Chennai born, I am a big fan of Ashwin. He stands tall among the so called Hadbhajan, Murali, Ajaml, Narine and the guy who started this all Saqlain Mutaq. Because Ashwin is the only cricketer and the others in the list should be playing baseball. Anyway, this is the year of Bridesmaids. It will be aSL vs SA in the finals. Law of averages should catch up soon. It can't go on for ever and ever, right?!

Posted by   on (April 4, 2014, 11:03 GMT)

Wow, this guy talks about guts and changes his action to get the 15 degree advantage.. Isn't it like taking the easiest route available?? Also, where did the guts go when he was being carted all over the park for runs in NZ and SA??

Posted by ajay78 on (April 4, 2014, 10:40 GMT)

India and South Africa match of April 4, 2014 is very Important. India must win to enter final. Best of Luck India.

Posted by LALITHKURUWITA on (April 4, 2014, 9:26 GMT)

I think Lasith will take a hat trick as the captain. Just one match away.

Posted by SKArya on (April 4, 2014, 8:35 GMT)

Thought India is on the higher side with Excellent spin attack....... But If Amla and AB de villiers both play as per there capabilities it not gona be easy for india to chase Amla and AB de villiers will play the key role by south africa's innining.........

Posted by srisharma_12 on (April 4, 2014, 8:20 GMT)

Suresh Raina should open with virat kohli in today's match.

Posted by BrainsRam on (April 4, 2014, 8:14 GMT)

Ashwin - I appreciate your confidence - but would have preferred all your talk after taking India to the title. Concentrate on your job man - I suggest you continue to do what you are best at - bowling - let the captain and other support staff talk.

BTW, I am your fan but don't want your words but only your actions to speak - otherwise you expose yourself to be ridiculed. You already have your fair share of critics who are gunning for you.

All the best - you are likely to face a more professional batting lineup in the form of De Cock, Amla, Du Plessis, ABD, Duminy, Millers & Albie than the likes of Pakistan, Windies or even Australia who capitulated in spite of having a good line-up.

Expecting another 4 for vs SA. If this happens and Mishra also keeps getting the wickets, we can overcome the strong SA hurdle. I'd rate this match higher than that of the final which is to be played on Sunday.

Way to go India. ALL THE BEST.

Posted by   on (April 4, 2014, 6:42 GMT)

GUTS of the bowlers; GUT-FEEL of the captain; and GUMPTION of half the number of our batsmen took us so far in this tournament. These qualities may take us our the finish line. This is despite the struggle of a few players

Hope they carry these along with them when they go for the tours i England, Australia , and South Africa. Or will they leave them behind, as they had done in the past, with an honorable and pleasurable exception of the Champions Trophy in England.

Posted by   on (April 4, 2014, 5:55 GMT)

Ash bowled beautifully in Aussie match. we want him to keep this momentum up for other matches as well.

Posted by Partha0103122 on (April 4, 2014, 3:21 GMT)

Hope there will not be any rain interruption to see all the fun happening. And whether Ashwin and his tactics win or lose, have to wait and see. He has definitely exceeded expectations so far in the tournament. Hope Mishra's magic continues. Good luck India!!

Posted by   on (April 4, 2014, 2:57 GMT)

I hope ashwin doesn't get hit all over the park after his comments.. if india needs to win the key should be open the indian openers get out in the first over so that they dont consume balls n put the pressure on the other batsman... hope the bowlers good run continues :-):-)

Posted by   on (April 3, 2014, 23:05 GMT)

Even though India has breezed through the league matches, I think they are the underdogs in this SF. The SA batsmen can easily toy around with all the Indian bowlers and their bowlers are intimidating to the Indian batsmen.

Posted by Kavum on (April 3, 2014, 22:35 GMT)

Admiring Ashwin's intestinal fortitude. Even if India get past AB and Co., they will be up against some of the best batters who want to have swansong worth remembering. Also, the two gentlemen Mahela and Sanga (forget Dilly for now), are perhaps some of the best players of spin in the modern game. Game on!

Posted by Paindu_Cant_Bat on (April 3, 2014, 22:29 GMT)

I think India has good chance; beside performance spin on the wicket giving India very good advantage batting for India should not give any worries. This will be a pressure game; if Indian team manages to apply the basic that should give positive result, good luck and enjoy the game.

Posted by richcricketguru on (April 3, 2014, 22:12 GMT)

I thought Ashwin previously indicated the secret was long sleeves and a nice 15 deg flick of the elbow? Now he is adding to this "throwing the ball up to the batsman". Of course it takes guts to do this.

Posted by   on (April 3, 2014, 19:50 GMT)

I think SA is probably the toughest India could have faced in semifinals. SL is good but Indians are somewhat familiar and can handle them. WI was also managed well by India as was shown in initial stage. SA on the other hand is a team that is not too afraid of our spinners and have good bowlers of their own to dominate India. Should be a great game tomorrow.

Posted by   on (April 3, 2014, 17:49 GMT)

Why is he so over confident, Mishra deserves the praise not Ashwin. Has he forgotten what happened to him in New Zealand. India should get rid of Ashwin and Jadeja and find a better I repeat much better and a world class all rounder if we have to win the World Cup in 2015.

Posted by cooljack_143 on (April 3, 2014, 17:41 GMT)

@Nampally what are you talking??? you didnt get what he is trying to say.He is just speaking of himself & nothing against the Opponents,he is not getting over confident walk the talk etc etc have been very fashionable words for people to use these days in their comments. Ashwin has done enough to his credibility , he does not even have to care or prove about what people like you think. You guys have no faith in Team Ind no matter what they do,very pessimistic attitude, no good for a fan who cheers for his team, Plz be optimistic in your comments if you really deep down heart are an Ind fan.Same goes for other die heart fans too.

Posted by Texmex on (April 3, 2014, 17:08 GMT)

Ashwin needs to talk less and continue to act. He should learn a thing to two from Kumble the most successful spinner ever even in unhelpful overseas conditions....

Posted by I_Love_My_India on (April 3, 2014, 17:05 GMT)

Another talker talk more than what he really does. Hopefully, the rain stays away and India win.....

Posted by Temuzin on (April 3, 2014, 16:52 GMT)

Good statement by Ashwin. Guts and fear will dictate bowlers performances. Let the mind game begin. Some of our batsmen are best players of spin and that will influence amount of guts shown by Tahir and other SA spinners. India should bat first if they win the toss. It should be a good game unless rains spoils it.

Posted by   on (April 3, 2014, 16:50 GMT)

Good show in Aussie game by Ashwin. Keep it up! Best bowling performance from Indian bowler in T20 games.

Posted by Ramansilva on (April 3, 2014, 16:46 GMT)

Ashwin is too over hyped. A couple of wicket in T20 does not make him a peer for Ajmal and Narein.

Posted by Nampally on (April 3, 2014, 16:00 GMT)

Actions speak louder than the words, Mr. Ashwin. My advise is to walk the Talk against SA in the semi's if India is to advance to the Final. T20 is the format of just 240 balls. The side making best use of each ball whether batting, bowling or fielding wins the match. It is as simple as that. As a bowler you have to focus on each ball to be a Dot ball or a wicket taker. If each bowler does his role with this criterion in mind, the Bowlers would have done their job. The Batsmen will have to do the opposite trying to eliminate the dot balls + scoring as many runs as they can in 120 balls. A total of 200 will be a good one to aim. But more important is to restrict the SA to a lower total than Indian one. So let the full XI focus on the job & Make each of 240 balls count for you. Good Luck!

Posted by   on (April 3, 2014, 14:30 GMT)

practice makes perfect Ashwin. Your status had dropped as an all rounder and now I know why. Your position in other formats of the game is also under threat. Work hard you will get good results consistently. Cricket is a game for a got athlete. is not like back on the day

Posted by CricketMaan on (April 3, 2014, 14:26 GMT)

Will be intresting to see if DeKock will start from where he stopped against India. To me biggest threat will be Amla, Faf and Devillers especially Faf has been the thorn both in that T20 WC in Lanka, Test in Jo'burg. Amla can be very steady against spinners which will leave Faf, AB and Dumminy to express themselves. If Indai cannot knock out Faf, AB under 20 they will have a very tough time! Good luck to both teams.

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India v Sri Lanka at Dhaka - Apr 6, 2014
Sri Lanka won by 6 wickets (with 13 balls remaining)
India v South Africa at Dhaka - Apr 4, 2014
India won by 6 wickets (with 5 balls remaining)
Sri Lanka v West Indies at Dhaka - Apr 3, 2014
Sri Lanka won by 27 runs (D/L method)
Pakistan v West Indies at Dhaka - Apr 1, 2014
West Indies won by 84 runs
Bangladesh v Australia at Dhaka - Apr 1, 2014
Australia won by 7 wickets (with 15 balls remaining)
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