Stopped watching cricket for a while, says R. Ashwin

The off-spinner made sure he enjoys the game wherever he plays, and says that that to an extent has been visible through the Test against South Africa.

FLYING HIGH: Ravichandran Ashwin is happy to be back playing.   -  K.R. Deepak

Ravichandran Ashwin’s exclusion from the Indian team’s starting XI in the Jamaica Test against the West Indies last month was the fourth straight Test the off-spinner had missed after sitting out the last three in Australia with an injury.

He was yet to play international cricket this year before taking the field against South Africa in the first five-day match in Visakhapatnam. And he revealed there was a phase when he had “stopped watching the game.”

“I felt like every time I watched the game on TV, I wanted to play, which is very natural. Everyone goes through that phase. It is not the be-all and end-all. My life has been all about cricket for the last 25 odd years...and I felt like my family and friends deserved a little more of my time. And I have two kids who don’t sleep and I got drawn to books and archaeology (laughs),” Ashwin said after taking a five-wicket haul on Friday that kept India in front despite hundreds from Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock.

Ashwin had suffered an abdomen injury in Australia last year that eventually ruled him out for the rest of the tour. Earlier that year, an aggravated hip injury had prevented him from completing the England series. His figures in seven overseas Tests in 2018 were 24 wickets at an average of 30.16.

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Asked about the spate of injuries, Ashwin said, “Addressing them is better left to the medical staff, but I felt like I was playing 12 months of the year. The up and down spike in workload could have cost me my fitness.

“Even when I wasn’t picked, I went back and played as much cricket as possible, be it TNPL (Tamil Nadu Premier League) or county (cricket in England)... As far as I am concerned, I could only tick those boxes and see how my body coped with it, and with all due respect to everyone, I enjoyed whatever I did over the last six months in terms of wherever I played,” he said.

Ashwin, who snapped up his fifth five-for against the Proteas and his 21st overall at home, credited the South African batsmen for putting up a tough fight. “I think Quinton, (Faf) du Plessis and Elgar batted really well. It’s a proper Test match pitch. You expect two teams to bat well, don’t you? Whenever the ball spun, it spun from a very far distance, not the normal length... We may have given away too many runs in the morning session, which gave them the momentum. That said, you expect a good side to play the way they did, so due credit to them.”

The 33-year-old said he is genuinely happy to be back and playing again. “I have realised that joy of playing the game has to be back in my heart, so I made sure that I can enjoy the game wherever I play... That to an extent has been visible through this Test. There is nothing like picking up a five-for for your country. But I also enjoyed my five wicket-haul for Nottingham. One is not lesser than the other for me; it is about playing the game,” he said.