Ashwin foxed by clever English commentator

What commentator Ian Ward did was to get Ashwin to not only talk but demonstrate how he grips the ball or how he runs in when he is about to bowl a particular ball.

Ravichandran Ashwin of India bowls during a nets session at Edgbaston on July 30, 2018 in Birmingham, England.   -  Getty Images

Ravichandran Ashwin is among the new breed of Indian cricketers, not only wonderful at their game but super confident, articulate and well-versed in matters other than cricket. It is never easy to hold one’s own when in front of the media but Ashwin does it with a charm and ease that wins over even the most sceptical of them. However sometimes being articulate is not an advantage and can actually cause more headaches than anticipated. In today’s world where the media is an important tool in promoting the brand, the person can get carried away and reveal more than he should.

After his magical bowling in the first Test where he made an experienced batsman like Alastair Cook look very ordinary, the host broadcaster Sky Sports had Ashwin over to talk about his bowling. Normally they have one of the commentators do the demonstration part but the Indian team management allowed Ashwin to go and speak to Ian Ward on the demonstration monitor about his bowling. Nothing wrong in that, for, generally at the end of the day’s play or before the next morning’s play starts the player who has done well is asked to address the media. The questions then are general and players say the usual bit about following process, bowling in the right areas and some such pretty common phrases.

However what Ian Ward did was very clever, perhaps cleverer than how Ashwin sets the batsman up and gets him out. What Ward did was to get Ashwin to not only talk but demonstrate how he grips the ball or how he runs in when he is about to bowl a particular ball. Now remember this is just the first Test match and there are four more to be played. Ashwin may have got carried away by his success after the hard time he had on the previous tour in 2014 and he told Ward pretty much most of his tricks. This recording will no doubt be used by the England think tank and especially their batsmen when they sit down before every Test to plan how to counter the Indian bowlers and particularly Ashwin. Watching the interview, one was gobsmacked because it was like a magician revealing his bag of tricks to the audience. Perhaps it won’t make a difference and Ashwin will go on to bag heaps of wickets in the rest of the series too, but if he doesn’t then he has only himself to blame for getting carried away and giving his secrets away.

Confidence is no bad thing and if it helps in self-belief nothing quite like it, but if there’s over-confidence then that can cause problems. Ashwin is also a very capable batsman as can be seen by the four Test match hundreds he has scored but clearly he does not give as much thought to his batting as he does to his bowling. Else why would he keep making the same mistake and get out looking to play the cover drive to deliveries around the off-stump? He does play it well when the ball is a half volley but when it’s good length he still keeps pushing at it with hard hands and gets out. If he can curb that instinct to push hard at the ball around the off-stump early in his innings, especially when he is new to the crease and on overseas pitches, he will give himself more of a chance to add to the four centuries he has in Test cricket.

Speaking of giving away secrets, Ian Chappell tells a lovely story of how his good mate and vice-captain of the Australian team Rodney Marsh would go to the English dressing room at the end of the day’s play and sit next to Geoffrey Boycott and know from him how to get the other English batsmen out. Boycott has been one of the foremost thinkers in the game and picking his brains is a great way to enhance one’s knowledge of the game. Marsh did that brilliantly and so was able to help his bowlers in getting valuable information about the other English batsmen. Those were, of course, the days before the computers and even video recorders and also when the opposition went to each other’s dressing rooms at the end of each day’s play to share drinks and spend some time after a hard day’s cricket. The batting team invariably took drinks to the fielding team’s dressing room and it was a great way of getting to know each other and leave the bitter contest on the field aside.

Today, of course, with computers there are no secrets as such and even if a player is unknown after one game there will be enough feedback on him to be prepared for the next game. That’s why the second season is the hardest for any newcomer in the game, particularly the bowlers.

Those who come back after that in the third season are the ones who have a long career in the game.