A few weeks ago, when Ravichandran Ashwin was not licking his wounds at being incessantly left out of India’s Test playing eleven against England,
He was rejoicing a return to the T20I fold – after more than four years in the wilderness.
At the time, it seemed an inspired move, considering Ashwin has probably been at his best as an international bowler over the past couple of years. He has seemed better equipped to handle adverse conditions.
That, combined with his itch to prove people wrong and show that conventional finger-spinners still warrant a place in T20 cricket, meant that thousands of people had begun pinning their hopes on Ashwin.
Since then, however, the wave of optimism has plateaued spectacularly. Not because a lot of cricket has transpired in that period but also because Ashwin – who was looked upon as the solution to most quandaries, has only ended up opening a different pandora’s box of problems altogether.
Over the next month, that might be something that worries the Indian cricket team too. Quite often,
he dug deep into his bag of tricks and almost always pulled out the right delivery to outfox the batters.
In the process, he gained quite a reputation and was even India’s go-to bowler during the early 2010s, with MS Dhoni (his CSK skipper too) utilizing him brilliantly.
In the past few years, though, Ashwin has deterred from the aspects that made him successful in the first place. During the early 2010s, the spinner regularly relied on his drift, dip and guile to deceive batters.
He was also very content to keep bowling his stock ball (the off-spinner) before using the carrom ball as the variation.
During the current season alone, Ashwin has seemed hell-bent on wanting to bowl as many variations as humanly possible in the space of six balls. He has tried the off-spinner, the under-cutter,
the over-spin off-spinner, the carrom ball, the carrom ball from wide of the crease and has even bowled balls where his follow through ends up in front of the umpire.
Ravichandran Ashwin has not bowled his full quota of overs thrice in UAE
In the Qualifier against CSK, the Capitals opted for Tom Curran, despite the Englishman’s limitations as a batter. To make up for it, they had to then deploy Axar Patel at
Against right-handed batters, the off-spinner averages 97 (yes, this is not a mistake) and has taken only two wickets. One of those scalps, interestingly enough, was Robin Uthappa – a batter who tore Ashwin to shreds in the Qualifier.
The economy rate, meanwhile, hovers around the 8.2-run mark.
When confronting left-handed batters, the corresponding economy rate is considerably lower (6.3 as opposed to 8.21). However, the wickets tally is relatively barren, with Ashwin having only accounted for 3 left-handed batters.
Thus, a case could be made that the off-spinner is perhaps not bowling to his true potential. And, as much as he would like to say that he doesn’t always look for wickets in T20 cricket and that this is his role,
five wickets throughout an edition is probably not what DC or the Indian cricket team would’ve been hoping for.
More tellingly, though, there have been glimpses lately of Ashwin being rattled. Remember, the veteran rarely gets flustered and usually performs at his best when backed into a corner. Over the past few games, however, that doesn’t particularly seem to be the case.
so much so that he’s not banking on the elements that made him a household name in the first place. Instead, he has been furiously rummaging for a solution that is simply not available.
From a broader perspective, nothing would please the DC and the Indian faithful more than Ashwin bowling at the peak of his powers. In red-ball cricket, that has been the case for the past couple of years too.
In white-ball cricket, though, a bit of ring-rust and a lack of clarity on what could work is probably weighing him down. The fact that there have been several question marks over his recent inclusion hasn’t helped either.
Having said that, the off-spinner remains one of the more intelligent cricketers on the circuit and has all the ingredients to storm back into form.
He can also single-handedly shape where the Qualifier between DC and KKR ends up. It could still work, you know.