R. Ashwin: We were the stand out team in 2013

“There are a lot good teams, but if we start well and gain the momentum early on in the tournament, I think India be very very dangerous team,” says ace spinner R. Ashwin.

“Whenever India plays a massive ICC tournament, there is going to be a lot of pressure,” says R. Ashwin.   -  M. Vedhan

R. Ashwin, businesslike in his approach, has firmly established himself as India’s main strike bowler across formats. The off-spinner has had phenomenal success over the past years and is hoping to continue the good work as he makes a return from injury. 

Excerpts from an interview:

 Question: There have been criticisms about you. Many felt that you are a good bowler but not a superstar. But in the last season, you added so many feathers on the cap — fastest to 250 Test wickets, most wickets in a season, and also the ICC Cricketer of the Year and Test cricketer of the year. Are you a superstar now?

Answer: I have never thought myself as a superstar. I am very very luck and blessed to have played the game I love so much. What’s come out is the bi-product of my love and passion for the game that’s reflected in what I have done. For trollers or critics, I don’t have anything to say. I am blessed and lucky to have been doing what I love doing.

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Do you really feel those achievements are real? Have you been able to soak them?

I have had a decent break now. If at all I had to soak in the entire season and enjoy myself, I could have. I am someone who is made this way, and I can’t really understand or experience what I have achieved yet. May be one day when my daughters grow up and they ask me a few questions, I may live back. But there have been programmes and I have been watching a few games of what has gone by and I have realised that some of the performances have been outstanding. I have failed to enjoy as much as I should have.

It is a middle phase of my career and I not really able to soak in the gravity of my achievements. I am very pleased to have got those awards. I would say, it is a bi-product of what I have been able to manage day in and day out; the efforts that have gone in behind the scenes. Most of the time, people don’t get to see what goes on behind the scene, so I am really happy.

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What is your best performance so far?

There have been a lot of good performances, a lot of good spells… What really showcase a sportsman’s career is the times when you are struggling and the time when you need to stand up, and you stood up. Every sportsman in his life wants to stand up when it is most required. It came at the fag end at the series against Australia. We were 0-1 down in Pune, we were outplayed in every department and I couldn’t win the game for the team. That too on a wicket that actually spun! Somebody else engulfed the position I normally take at home games. In the next game in Bengaluru, I just got two wickets. I bowled 50 overs for two wickets. Bowled really good for not much result. In came the second innings, I had to put my hand up, we had to level the series. That spell was a good one, and it did turn the series on its head. So, I was very pleased with it.

 

That was also unique to see you celebrating that way. You are not known for showing emotions…

I am an emotional person but I carry myself well on the field. The whole thought process behind me having to do what I really love and the respect I have for the game is not to wear my emotions up my sleeve is half the battle won. Everybody does it in a different way. There is no one way to success. The situation was such. I could not bowl as many overs as I bowled in the past and the effectiveness in the later over was reducing. I was struggling with my body, I was struggling with my fitness, and when it came to all that, I bowled a 50-over spell. I was still trying to find out the right pace to bowl on the wicket, and try to win the game. I was desperate. With all those at the back of my mind, I could do only 4-5 overs of effective bowling… I came out and won the game for the team.

 

You also had a season full of injuries. The body, the fingers…

Not so much the fingers. The entire body had to go through a sea change. On November 9 at Rajkot, no, November 11 actually, on the third day of the Test match, we were batting against England, on the morning during the warm-up session, I pulled my left aductor. I thought it wasn’t very big and I went out to do a few exercises to see how my muscle was holding up. Eventually, I got through that game. I was not feeling a lot of trouble in that game, because my movements were getting restricted but they were not hampered. After the game, I went to the physio as most parts of my aductors and groin were getting restricted. He said this could be a sports hernia and we would assess it for another couple of games. By the time we reached Mohali after Vizag, it had got worse. I couldn’t rotate my torso, I couldn’t flick the ball. My movement on the left side was completely restricted. To go anywhere and bend was tough. In the game in Mohali, I put a catch down at mid-wicket, I went for a ball and I slid. This was happening because my left hip wasn’t moving at all. The entire movement was happening from opposite direction, so bowling was getting difficult.

From that day in Mohali, things went downhill. I had to manage my body. I couldn’t go to the gym as much as I was going earlier. I couldn’t run much. My strides were restricted to 25-30 metres, anything more than that was not allowed. The trainer had clearly told me not to run or sprint. It was difficult but I knew I had to go through all this to recuperate myself.

 

Now with Champions Trophy coming up, how do you see defending champion India’s chances?

Whenever India plays an ICC event, there is bound to be pressure. When you go to a venue with past memories, you always have an advantage. You are going to have memories at Birmingham, Lord’s… we won games and played really well in 2013. We were a stand-out team. We actually beat teams comprehensively. Then came the final, we had a bit of hand of god there. The rain came down… it was a 20-over game, it started spinning. There was a lot of luck on our side on the final day, but I think we earned the right. So this time, there are a lot of good teams, but if we start well and get the momentum early in the tournament, then we will be a dangerous team.

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