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News

'We've always found people to step up' - Dravid looks back at a famous series win

Ashwin explains the "different actions, different speeds, and different releases" he has had to use to stay on top of the batters

India, led by five-wicket hauls from Kuldeep Yadav and R Ashwin in the two innings, and an all-star batting display led by centuries from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, crushed England by an innings and 64 runs to win the series 4-1 in Dharamsala. Here is what Ashwin, who was playing his 100th Test, and head coach Rahul Dravid had to say afterwards on the official broadcast.
Yeah, really proud, to be honest. To go behind in the first Test, obviously it was a little bit disappointing, but just credit to the team and all the players, the way they bounced back. I thought we were able to keep a lot of calmness in spite of losing that first match. I still believed that we had the skills and the abilities to compete. And just the way we performed, especially when we've been put under pressure at various stages in the series. We've always found people to step up, the team to stand up. So as a coach and as a support staff, I couldn't be really prouder of this team and the way they've played right through the series.
Obviously when you do lose players of the kind of experience and quality [Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami missed out altogether and KL Rahul played just one Test] that we probably didn't have in this series, it can be tough. I mean it can be tough just from an entertainment perspective for people who come to watch the series or follow the series - you want to watch some of the greatest players in the world play. But, having said that, I just always really believe that there's an incredible amount of talent in India and a lot of young people, young players coming through. And it was a great opportunity for them to step up and show how good they are. And we saw that right throughout the series. And I think from our perspective, it was terrific to see the young players do well, but also I thought our performances were all-round; we had sort of total team performances. If you went down our whole squad, you'd see almost everyone contributed at some stage in the series, at critical stages. So, that was a pleasing thing for us from our perspective.
[On the new players coming through] I think it's nice. I think I'm privileged to work with a lovely team. It's not just about me. And I think this is a fantastic bunch of professionals that I have the privilege of working with. And I'm learning from them all the time. Rohit [Sharma] has been fantastic to work with. I think he's a terrific leader. And just the guys gravitate towards him phenomenally, which is fantastic to see. And also, I'd just like to give a big shout out to [chief selector] Ajit [Agarkar] and his team as well. A lot of the youngsters that come in, honestly, as a coach and as a captain, we don't actually get to see them because we don't see as much domestic cricket as Ajit and his team of selectors do. And they've pushed us and they've challenged us to pick some of these young players and they've picked the right ones and they've come out here and performed. So sometimes it's not easy being a selector because you always get the criticism but a big credit and a big pat on the back to Ajit and his team as well.
[Standout moment from the series] I don't know. I mean, some great performances all through. Hard to pick probably one standout moment. Maybe, I'd just say Ashwin coming back to the team after what he went through. Yeah, performances are there and you're expected to perform and you're expected to do well. But, you know, Ash coming back after what he'd gone through for the team and wanting to come back and contribute to the team and the series, I think for me really signified what this team is about and what the character of this team is. And I think that was just for me, probably the standout moment of the series and really gladdens your heart as a coach to kind of environment that that had been created.
Very happy, can't really put a wrapper on how I'm feeling. It's been quite a lot that has happened over the last week or so, a lot of talk about the 100th Test. Overwhelmed, a lot of well-wishers have come forward and wished me well. Great previews by the media team of the BCCI. But to have a good game in terms of wickets, what more can a bowler ask for?
[Five-for in 100th Test] Through the series, I have gone to different actions, different speeds, and different releases all because India is one place where we play in so many venues and every surface requires a different sort of skillset to be executed. But overall, I was pleased with how the ball came out in this game, even though I went for a few big hits. It's probably because of the fact that the ball is hanging on both sides of the blade. Probably most pleased with this performance and the second innings at Ranchi.
[On Ollie Pope's wicket in Dharamsala] In India, sometimes the beauty is what's gone by. And largely, cricket is a game played between the two sides of your head here. What went by was definitely going on in his head. I was expecting him to probably reverse his sweep. It looks like a lot is happening because the new ball is biting off the surface. That's a time where you can utilise if you can gauge the batsmen properly. One good spell I went through this morning, and picked the batsmen's particular shot as well.
[On his experiments] I am least bit insecure about what people feel about me. I know as a cricketer or anybody at the top level of any other profession will have to take criticism from experts. This is one such case, I have kept my eyes open. I have listened to good feedback and good criticism and taken it on board. Unless I try, I will never be able to learn. So I lock away what I learn. I lock away the limitations of a particular learning. If I'm confident of trying and executing something, I will try that. I don't want to hold back.
I feel times have rolled along and, in a way, the number of video footages that you get, the video analysis you can do, and how frequently you play among the top Test nations, the batters are constantly prepared and they can line you up beautifully if you are the same person that you keep coming. Of course, there will be phases where you will keep it, you will find good lengths in certain spells, but sticking to one method won't be good enough to dismiss batters. I am not saying it won't work but thankfully, I am one of those who has experimented, learnt, and it has worked for me. I can't say this is the method somebody else should stick to. But nevertheless, with all the video footage and analysis going on, it's better if you stay on top of it.
[On bowling with Kuldeep] From the far end, there was more bite, from the other end there was a bit more speed off the surface. If you can use it really well as you execute your skills you'll learn about it, it really works. With the new ball, I got some bounce and kick today, that was really good. In the first innings, when Kuldeep came on that side, he was able to utilise it and all in all, I thought, the way the ball is coming out of Kuldeep's hand is unbelievable. Watching a wristpinner in such flow and the kind of switches he has been able to make through the series and especially in the last ten months is so heartening to see. I can't be more happy for somebody.
Player of the Series: 712 runs, nine innings, average 89, highest score 219
I think, I really enjoyed [the series]. It gives me a lot of experience and I'm really happy with the way I've played throughout, and I really enjoyed my innings. I was just thinking to play my shots, if I feel like I can score runs and if I feel like I can take the bowler down, then okay I need to take him down. [No goals in Test cricket] I'm just trying to play one match at a time and enjoy [it] and make sure that I do something for my team and help my team win. I'm always thinking that I need to contribute in any way to my team winning the game.
Player of the Match in Dharamsala: 5 for 72 and 2 for 40
[Is this the best he is bowling?] I think yes. It's the hard work I did from the last couple of years, and I'm getting the reward.
[On his best performance in the series] I think I bowled really well in Ranchi. I'd probably choose the Ranchi Test match. The way I used the drift over there was fantastic.
I liked the Ben Stokes wicket as well in Ranchi. Probably I love the Zak Crawley wicket (too), it was a beautiful ball.
[On improving as a bowler] Just the length. Just focusing on the length, just keep trying to bowl on a good length, that's very important for any spinner in any format you play. It's actually helping me a lot, not trying too much… not thinking about [anything else] but the length and what pace I am bowling. And my rhythm as well.
[On his improvement as a batter] Credit goes to batting coach [Vikram Rathour]. He helped me a lot. Not only the skill aspect, I think mental aspect as well, just backing [yourself] every time I am doing a net session.