In a crepuscular setting, the tall man went through his fitness routines – focussed yet cheerful in a familiar arena.
He then emerged from the drills, smiled and was honest with his replies. R. Ashwin oozed confidence with his body language and words – never shying away from challenges on and off the field, never ducking the tough questions.
Back after a successful stint with Worcestershire, Ashwin continues to find himself out of the Indian limited overs’ scheme of things.
Asked about his omission – wrist spinners are the flavour of the season – from the shorter formats, Ashwin answered, “This is some sort of difficult question to answer for me because I don’t know if it’s a comeback at all. And I am sure comebacks are not going to be easy.”
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He elaborated, “I am not desperate at all. One day, the opportunity will come on my door knocking because I haven’t done too much wrong. So when I get the opportunity and when I am put in an occasion, I will probably try and raise my game to the best of my ability.”
Brutal fitness is the latest mantra, and Ashwin was ready for the Yo-Yo test. He observed, “I am a man for systems and any system put in place, I would strive my level best to try and match up to it. Every leader has his own vision of how to bring the team about and this is the vision of the current leadership group then it’s important to respect it. I totally buy into it.
The all-rounder said he was in fine shape physically. “I have been in great conditioning ever since I missed the IPL. I have trained madly. You have to take the test and decide how it goes. But I am completely in compliance with it.”
Queried if the development of Hardik Pandya as an all-rounder could enable the side play two spinners even in Tests away from the sub-continent, Ashwin replied, “We could play two spinners, we could play one spinner and that could be a left-arm spinner — I don’t know. Honestly, I am not looking forward to anything at all. I am just taking it one day at a time and I find life to be a lot comfortable.”
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On the kind of role he saw for himself during India’s demanding away Test campaigns in South Africa, England and Australia over the next two years, Ashwin noted, “For me, its all about bowling well and trying to get to the top rhythm that I have always wanted to be because as a cricketer. It is about constantly revisiting my best. Maybe, I will not be the type of attacking bowler when we tour abroad. I need to do a good holding role.”
Ashwin dwelt on his successful stint with Worcestershire, living up to the expectations from him as an overseas professional, bowling on slow wickets with the Duke ball and getting to know himself better.
He said, “I thought I got into some fantastic bowling and batting rhythm towards the end of season in Worcester. I started understanding a lot more about myself —how much I need to load myself in terms of workload. I had to do everything on my own — drive down to the ground, train myself, put the cones and weights in place and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
At Worcester, he played in crowds of 5000 to 8000 spectators who understood and appreciated cricket. In international games, Ashwin is in front of huge audiences.
He said though, “I never played cricket for the crowds and I enjoy cricket wherever I play. Even If I play a fifth division match tomorrow, I will enjoy it.”
That sums up the essential Ashwin for you.