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'Felt like I was making my debut again' - Ashwin relishes return to Test cricket

"I didn't imagine it sometime back that we would we playing Tests again with what was happening around us"

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Leading wicket-taker, crucial runs with Cheteshwar Pujara, an economy rate of under two throughout the Test. That was R Ashwin the last time India played in Adelaide. Yet there were questions around whether he should be the spinner representing India in Adelaide this time, not least because by the end of the last tour his coach had openly said Kuldeep Yadav was his No. 1 choice in away Tests.
You would expect the old Ashwin to follow up his four-for to put India in a dominant position in the Test with an equally aggressive verbal display in the press at the end of the day, but he is a changed man now. This has been an extremely tough year on everyone, and Ashwin says he is thankful to be able to be back on the park and wants to enjoy every minute he spends on it. The competitor on the field is still there but he is not smarting for a fight off the field.
"I am so happy we are playing Test cricket again," Ashwin said at the end of the second day. "I didn't imagine it sometime back that we would we playing Test cricket again with what was happening around us. For me, being extremely mad about the sport and still doing a lot of work even during the lockdown, it just felt so refreshing to go there and have a bowl. The feeling was great. Pink-ball Test and all that. Just felt amazing to go out there. I felt like I was making my debut again. I enjoyed my bowling."
A lot has been spoken about the styles of the two offspinners in this Test, Ashwin and Nathan Lyon, especially the bounce Lyon gets and how it works in Australia. "I think every spinner is different," Ashwin said. "I think sometimes things can get blown out of context when comparisons are made with how one approaches his trade in comparison with the other. Even in this Test, Nathan and I bowl very differently. We are both very different bowlers. Successful in our own way.
"For me it is about trying to change it up and make it difficult for the batsman to be able to defend and also score at the same time. Sometimes when you are playing just four bowlers, especially away, my trade is just to hold one end up and rotate the fast bowlers at the other end and also go for wickets if I do get enough assistance or early wickets. For me it is extremely important to make it as difficult as possible for the batsman to defend."
Ashwin did get testy for a brief while when asked if he considers trying to bowl a little like Lyon in Australia or Moeen Ali in England. "Sometimes I feel these comparisons and the way we look at things is skewed," Ashwin said. "Nobody asks batsmen to go and watch how Smith bats and replicate it all the time when we tour Australia. Nobody asks them to bat like Alastair Cook or Joe Root when they play. I think we are all aware that everybody skins a cat differently.
"There is no end to what you can learn, you can always learn all the finer things, how they go about their business, what fields they set, the passage of play. I have always maintained this, especially when you play away from India, the passages of play need to go your way as a spinner because you are doing a twin job and against the conditions. As far as I am concerned, I watch carefully to see if I can learn and also prepare thoroughly for the batsmen and put in an earnest effort. How people perceive it and how they compare it is for them to do."
Even when asked if this was the best he had bowled away from home, Ashwin said he didn't want to compare, but also made it a point to say that he has been pretty good away from home last two years or so. "Look in the last two years if people might not reflect upon a couple of not-so-great situations or matches if you may call so, I have pretty much had decent outings every time I have gone out to play abroad over the last 18 months or so," Ashwin said. "And things can get blown out of context. I have put those things behind me, and I only want to enjoy my trade and have all the fun I possibly can. I don't want to sit back and think whether it is the best or not. For me there is an innings to go and I am looking forward to the entire series. It is a great opportunity for me to play the game I love."
The entire series is a crucial point because he has started three of his last four tours superbly only for an injury to sideline him. His numbers in the first Test of series are way better than the subsequent ones. Correcting that is his next challenge this tour.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo