I set high benchmarks for myself, says Ashwin

Ravichandran Ashwin, who will be taking the field for his 50th Test, talked at length on his cricketing journey with the Indian side.

Ravichandran Ashwin at Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on Monday.   -  AFP

As India gears up for the first Test against Sri Lanka, starting in Galle from Wednesday, Ravichandran Ashwin is an excited man. The Indian spinner, who will be taking the field for his 50th Test, talked at length on his cricketing journey with the Indian side.

The excerpts..

On the excitement of playing the 50th Test match

Coming back to the place where I did well last time in 2015, is like a dream come true. It was a sort of momentous ocassion for me then, because I was on the way back to the Test side, and I got a six-for on the first day, and then a ten-for on the third day, I think. It brings back a lot of memories at this venue. 50th Test is something that’s come about. I can’t go back and retrace how I did it, but I am grateful to have got in here. I think every Test match is a blessing from here.

On the targets that he’s set for himself

Looking back, I may have had set some targets, but don’t think I will set targets now. That’s what past has taught me. You can’t really get ahead of yourself, you can’t go for milestones for yourself in the future. The most important thing is to try and get better every single day because international cricket is very very cruel and it can sort you out if you are sitting back on your laurels. It is important to put it behind. You can have a cup of coffee and think about it, but it’s important to go ahead and take one Test match at a time.

On whether the preparations have altered over the years

Preparation time and what I want to tick as a cricketer getting into a Test match is pretty much the same. Awareness as a cricketer and my general experience is important. Today at the practice I could sense what sort of experience I can go into the Test match with. What learnings can I put into practice. All that gives me a knowledge and perspective going into a game. This 50 Tests have possibly put me in good stead.

On how the Indian team is placed?

In 2015, we were sandwiched in middle of a leadership takeover between MS (Dhoni) and Virat (Kohli). Virat had just taken over after Australia, and we came here after a Test in Bangladesh. We had set lot of goals for each other. I would say we have achieved it and have come out with flying colours over the last couple of years. We have produced lots of good cricketers, and some young guys have come up and raised their hands. Some players have excelled well, that includes me, (Ravindra) Jadeja, Puji (Cheteswar Pujara), who was not a part of the first Test. But then, he came off in the third Test and played exceedingly well on a tough wicket. We have become a good unit since then, even quite a few good cricketers lose out in this team because of the quality we have in the team.

Three best moments...

Being the Cricketer of the Year last year was the icing on the cake. the 4-0 win against England. It was a far more tough team than what it looks like. And third would be the Test in Bangalore. On fourth day, we won the match, coming back from a loss in Pune.

On the constancy of Indian team...

That’s a chicken and egg question. Some of the individuals have put their hands up and have done exceedingly well for the team to get here. With some exceedingly good performances from individuals, it becomes a imperative that they become a constant for the side. That’s how it is. You can’t say, constancy is the factor. These individuals standing up on a day to day basis has made things easier and have set that constancy. Going further, we will have to replicate that.

On coach Ravi Shastri

I thought it was about my 50th Test. The decision has been made and something I can’t comment on. Ravi bhai has been a fabulous person to have in the dressing room. Even when he was here last time, we lost that Test in Galle and he really picked us up from that low point in our careers. Looking forward to working with him.

On whether playing for India is a challenge?

Yes. The amount of pressure you are put on... You have to understand, this is an excellent Indian team. Look at teams round the world, youngsters get an extended run to play than what they get in India. Thats because the kind of team we have put up. We have some cricketers sitting outside pressure as well. It is a lot of pressure, but sustaining or holding on to a team will not go down well with a side which is striving for excellence. Needs to have excellent cricketers who are willing to get past their previous best. This Indian team is an excellent side.

On how have things changed for him over the years?

For starters, I am a lot more calm now. I was like a cat on the hot tin roof. I have always lived that way. I take things by my stride. Bad days are there, but you try and learn to be better. I am now a far better cricketer than what I was in 2015. Hope I will be even better if I come next time.

Best scalps...

Getting Sangakkara out in Sri Lanka. AB de Villiers in Nagpur. Test matches... can’t think too much. Shaun Marsh in Sydney... David Warner in Bangalore. There have been quite a few good balls that I have bowled. I have done reasonably well.

On stint with the bat...

I have done reasonably well with the bat. I set high benchmarks for myself. I am low on the kind of average I would have liked to have. I started with 42 or 43, and today I am at 33. I think I could have done lot better. Tennis elbow pulled me down as a batsman. The graph is back again.

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