Rohit Sharma: ‘Ashwin, for me, is an all-time great’

The India captain lauds R. Ashwin for his contribution to Indian cricket, saying he gets better with every game he plays.

India's Ravichandran Ashwin (L) celebraytes with India's Virat Kohli (R) the dismissal of Sri Lanka's Lahiru Thirimanne (not pictured) during the second day of the first Test cricket match between India and Sri Lanka.   -  AFP

R. Ashwin went past Kapil Dev’s tally of 434 Test wickets on day three of the first Test at the PCA stadium here and is now ninth in the list of the highest wicket-takers in Test cricket. He was the most successful of all of India’s bowlers barring Ravindra Jadeja, picking six wickets, including four in the second innings.

Ashwin contributed with the bat, too, scoring an elegant half-century (61, 82b, 8x4) in the first innings, contributing all those runs in a partnership of 130 with Jadeja for the seventh wicket.

Rohit Sharma termed him an all-time great.

“He’s been playing for so many years for India, and he has done so well. He’s given so many match-winning performances. So he’s an all-time great, for me,” he said after India’s innings-and-222-run victory.

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“I’ve been watching Ashwin for a long time now. Whenever I watch him, he seems to get better and better (sic). Ashwin is one of those kinds of players [who have confidence in their abilities] – whatever he wants to go out there and achieve for himself and then for the team as well. He played a crucial innings as well with the bat – got us a big partnership with Jadeja,” Rohit said.

'Hungry’

Rohit also lauded the other major contributor to the team’s win – Ravindra Jadeja, who scored a career-best 175 (unbeaten) and then took nine wickets across two innings (five in the first, four in the second).

“To me, he’s one of the top [all-rounders in the game], definitely. Look at the performances – honestly, to get 175 not out, and then take nine wickets in the game – he’s just upping his game every time we see him. In the past as well, when we played in India, with his contribution with the bat lower down the order and picking those crucial wickets, he just seems to be adding a lot more to his game every time he plays.

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“He’s very hungry, as we can see. He’s quite hungry for success, he’s quite hungry to get runs and do well for the team. When I talk to him about certain things he is very open-minded, he wants to take responsibility, he wants to take the challenge. When we played Sri Lanka in the T20s, I just asked him, ‘would you be wanting to bat up the order?’ And he just agreed. As a captain, I feel I want to use Jadeja a lot more with the bat. We all know his bowling, and everyone knows about his fielding,” he said.

Runs from lower-order batters

Rohit felt the first Test against Sri Lanka was a near-perfect game for his team, but admitted that the fielding could be better. He was buoyed that lower-order batters had contributed heavily with the bat – from 228 for 5, they took India to 574 for 8.

“I clearly remember, it was way back in 2015 when Virat took over as captain we wanted to see better contributions with the bat from the lower order, which is why we kept emphasising a lot on how important it is for all the bowlers to go and bat in the nets, try and improve one or the other skill if possible for them to go and put that contribution out. And I think we’re seeing that now; we’re getting to see a lot of guys who bat down the order are contributing a lot.

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“Last Test match against England (Lord’s), [Jasprit] Bumrah and [Mohammed] Shami created that huge partnership which put us in a winning position. So we’re emphasising and focussing on lower-order contributions; at the same time, it is up to the individual also to take that responsibility and try and improve going out there and getting some hits in the nets and then see what they can do. Because it’s important, all 11 players contributing in different facets of the game is very, very crucial,” he said. And for those out of the team or warming the bench, clear communication is a challenging task but necessary for Indian cricket to make good progress, admitted Rohit.

“It’s absolutely challenging and it is very, very important. It’s not just about 11 players; it’s also about those who are sitting outside wanting to get their chances. If you create the bench strength and start thinking from now, Indian cricket will be in good hands. And that is one of my challenges and one of my responsibilities that I want to take upon me to create that bench strength as much as possible.”

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