Ashwin brings the magic to his homecoming

IPL 2023

Ashwin brings the magic to his homecoming

Narbavi R

Ravichandran Ashwin has been among the standout bowlers in the first two weeks of IPL 2023. Only Ravindra Jadeja in the top-five of the wicket takers has managed to concede at less than seven and two of the four games played by Rajasthan Royals have come in Guwahati, a venue renowned for big totals. So on Wednesday (April 12), it was no surprise that Ashwin stepped once more at a venue he knows better than most.

While he played a game of cat and mouse with Ajinkya Rahane in his first over, he got his man at the ideal moment for the visitors, who were put under the pump by the former India captain. Rahane was forcing the pace even after the powerplay and had already smashed Ashwin for a six earlier by stepping down the wicket. In round two though, Ashwin got the better of him with a well disguised carrom ball that was bowled a lot fuller to trap him leg-before-wicket. Royals seized on that opening to apply the brakes.

CSK’s ploy to counter a spin troika of Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal and Adam Zampa with Shivam Dube went up in smoke as well as the veteran offspinner prized him out before he could tee off. “He is a designated spin hitter for CSK. The way he played Kuldeep (Sen) the previous over I knew he was going to come after me,” Ashwin said after the game. “Didn’t have any deliberate plans but I feel the ball is coming out really well, I’m able to get it to drop, I’m able to put enough revs, I’m able to use both my variations, my length and the arm ball at the moment is really good. I’m just happy the way it is coming out.”

Even though the Royals’ spinners ended up out-bowling their CSK counterparts despite the dew threat, Ashwin admitted that a part of that success to the on-field umpire’s decision to change the ball during the run chase that negated the disadvantage to an extent. “I’m quite surprised that the umpires changed the ball for dew on their own,” he said. “Some of the decisions in this year’s IPL on the field has left me flummoxed to be honest. What you need is a little bit of balance. We are the bowling team, we didn’t ask for it to be changed but the ball was changed on the umpire’s accord. I asked the umpire and he said we can change it. So I just hope every time there is dew they can change it.”

Dew or no dew, Ashwin shone through in the final phase of the game as well. Needing 63 from the final five, CSK had their dependable evergreen pair of Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni out in the middle when Ashwin came on for his final over. The two experienced batters managed just four runs though and the equation became a lot tougher.

So far in the IPL, the 36-year-old has finished with figures of 1/27, 1/25, 2/25 and 2/25. Those are impressive outings on what’s been a high-scoring tournament so up to this point. Ashwin once again finds himself out of the reckoning for a spot in India’s white-ball squads. However, he isn’t letting anything weigh on his mind at the moment. “I’m just enjoying the way I’m bowling, I’m not giving it too much thought,” he said. “For someone like me who bowls at different phases of the game, I have to prepare myself to bowl different lengths, different speeds, different trajectories.

“Even Sanjay (Manjrekar) asked me: ‘Are you keeping it a lot more simple’? You keep it simple only when you attain a certain amount of mastery over things I feel. Like I told him, Where I’m, what I’m, having played cricket for so long, I probably gauge things and deliver what I think is the best for that situation. I’m looking at deceiving the batsmen a lot more in the flight, that’s because of where I find myself with the ball right now.”

Ashwin’s magic in his happy homecoming wasn’t restricted to his mastery of his primary craft. While spin was expected to play a major role, the likes of Maheesh Theekshana and Moeen Ali were put under the sword by Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal. The game however turned on its head when Jadeja came on as he got the ball to grip and pose problems. The left-arm spinner picked two wickets in the span of three deliveries to stun Royals and that forced them to promote Ashwin up the order to negate the threat.

After receiving a reprieve first up, Ashwin managed to play out the major part of Jadeja’s next two overs without further damage. By the end of that stunning spell, Ashwin had made only 10 off 14 but knew better matchups were lying ahead to make up for lost time. Akash Singh, playing his first game for CSK, bore the brunt as Ashwin smashed him for successive sixes to get the Royals ball rolling again.

“I felt like I was playing in a Test match when he [Jadeja] was bowling,” he said. “It was just raging a few balls, these are the things we are going to encounter with different teams in different home grounds. I just felt it was perfect for a left-arm spinner to hit that spot at side spin, good speed. Jadeja was unplayable for those 2-3 overs, the ball was spinning from outside leg stump sometimes. We had to bide our time and try and pick our matchups.”

Ashwin batted at No. 7 in his team’s first game and then proceeded to open the innings in the next before walking out at No. 5 against CSK. “To be fair, every single match we bat I’m padded up either as a showpiece or as a batsman,” he said while brushing aside suggestions that it was his suggestion that led to him batting up the order. “I’m just padded up, I’m ready to go anytime. If you put a batter in that position and ask them to go in any order, they might not do it willingly but for someone like me who doesn’t bat as much throughout the season I’m glad I’m getting an opportunity at least to pad up. So I just stay padded up and ready to go.”

And sure enough, with Ashwin, it is natural to expect that there’s more from where all of that came from.

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