The Heavy Ball

Three things you didn't know about Ravichandran Ashwin

Formative details from the childhood of Indian cricket's man of the moment

Sidin Vadukut
Looked around, confused, for a South African archbishop when his partner cried "Two, two"  •  AFP

Looked around, confused, for a South African archbishop when his partner cried "Two, two"  •  AFP

Few young Indian talents have excited the nation recently as much as this person. Not since the World Cup victory have we seen such performances. Rarely have we witnessed such all-round ability - persuasive talents on the pitch, calm demeanour off it, light hands, a determination to go the distance, and confidence on both the leg side and off sides.
I am speaking, of course, of Sunny Leone.
But closely following her, in terms of talent and fame, is Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin, everyone agrees, has been the star of the recently concluded three-Test series against West Indies. In the course of the series he took 22 wickets at an average of 22.90 centimetres, and scored 121 runs. Thus he became only the 34th Indian this year to both score a century and not be Sachin Tendulkar. For this achievement he was awarded the Dilip Sardesai Trophy, named after the renowned Indian batsman Vijay Merchant, by the BCCI.
But despite his fame and talent Ashwin remains a relatively unknown public figure. Articles about his personal life and family are rare. And little is known about the events that have gone into making him the player he is today. Therefore readers will be interested to read about some amusing, hitherto unknown, things about Ravichandran Ashwin. Hopefully this will enhance the public's understanding of this quiet, modest cricketer.
1. Ashwin once abandoned a friend at an amusement park
This happened in 2001, when Ashwin was 15 years old. His school, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan, decided to take all its students to Black Thunder amusement park in Mettupalayam in Tamil Nadu.
Since many students were involved, the school asked all of them to always stay in pairs. Ashwin was paired with Gaurav Singhal from 9B. However, when the time came to go back home, Ashwin ran to the bus, leaving Gaurav in a restroom. Ashwin forgot all about Gaurav, and nobody noticed his absence till they reached Coimbatore. Ashwin still remembers this with regret: "I should have immediately gone back for Singhal..."
2. Cricket was not Ashwin's first choice
Not many people know this, but Ashwin always wanted to grow up and become a football player. Indeed, for many of his growing years he was well known in his school and neighbourhood for being good at using his height and for kicking the ball powerfully.
However, his football career came to an abrupt end in the summer of 1997, during a class football match. The match had been planned for weeks but Ashwin, unfortunately, forgot all about it. And instead of taking his sturdy football boots, he wore his brand-new black leather shoes to class.
For the first 88 minutes of the match Ashwin somehow managed to not scuff his shoes at all, by heading, chesting and kneeing the ball. But in the 89th minute his team won a penalty. The scores were level: 1-1. This penalty kick would be crucial. Ashwin was asked to thump in one of his trademark cannonballs.
Poor Ashwin was in a quandary. He really loved the new shoes. So he thought about it and did the unthinkable. He ran up, dived to the ground and hit the ball with his head. It tamely dribbled into the hands of the goalkeeper. The game ended in a draw.
For years his classmates never let him forget his embarrassment. Ashwin, who never touched a football again, is unrepentant: "Look everyone was obsessed with winning the match, but I wanted to ensure that I avoided the feet."
3. Ashwin hates Dumb Charades
For those who are unfamiliar, Dumb Charades is a game where contestants must mime the names of movies (such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and books (such as Saving Private Ryan - The Book) to their team-mates (such as Anita and Gopinath), who must then guess it within a stipulated time (such as two minutes). Dumb Charades is especially popular in Indian schools and colleges.
In 2006, Ashwin and his friend Gaurav Singhal reached the finals of the All Chennai Inter-College Anna Dravida Dumb Charades Competition. To lift the trophy, all Ashwin had to do was guess one final movie. Gaurav, an expert mime artist, easily mimed the first two words of the three-word title: "Run Lola..." Everyone assumed Ashwin would guess the third easily.
Instead what followed were 30 seconds of horror as Ashwin guessed one wrong title after the other: Run Lola Again, Run Lola Kutty, Run Lola Refrigerator, Run Lola Middle Finger, Run Lola Van der Waal's Force and so on. Eventually they lost and ended in second place. He has never played wretched Dumb Charades since.
Ashwin is defiant about the loss to this day: "Machaan, I genuinely didn't think there was a second Run in it..."

Sidin Vadukut is the managing editor of and the author of the novel Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese. He blogs at Domain Maximus.

All quotes and "facts" in this piece are made up, but you knew that already, didn't you?