Ashwin defends Indian batsmen after narrow loss

Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin said that batsmen on both sides have struggled on a tough pitch at Edgbaston.

"I don’t think batsmen from both sides were able to make runs with a lot of freedom barring the partnership between Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow in the first innings, and then Virat Kohli from our side. It has been quite a struggle that way so I think we need to give batsmen some space,” Ashwin said.   -  Getty Images

Ravichandran Ashwin said that the Indian team is upbeat despite the 31-run loss against England in the first Test at Edgbaston. India looked to win the game with 84 runs to score and five wickets in hand, but capitulated for 164 with Virat Kohli top scoring with 51.

“When you make runs and pick up wickets, you want to make sure that it is a killer blow (to the opposition) and you want to end up on the winning side. It gives you more pleasure out of the game and when it doesn’t happen, you feel a little deflated about it. This game was like a see saw battle and there was enough in there for the pacers,” said Ashwin.

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“So they were always in the game and you do expect batsmen to get a ball that has their name on it. With that sort of a game hedging on the balance, I thought we competed really well throughout. There are a lot of things to be upbeat about, so (I am) not completely feeling deflated,” he added.

The off-spinner defended Indian batsmen with only Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya being able to score excess of 30 runs in the match.

“It was quite a tough pitch to bat on. I don’t think batsmen from both sides were able to make runs with a lot of freedom barring the partnership between Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow in the first innings, and then Virat Kohli from our side. It has been quite a struggle that way so I think we need to give batsmen some space,” Ashwin said.

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He also said that the Indian team is positive about the remaining three Tests in the series despite the narrow loss.

“This was a game where we would have liked to finish on the winning side. No doubt about it. But there are a lot of things we can feel proud of at the end of this game. It’s a long test series so to feel defeated or pained so early on in the series is unfair.”

Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik walked out on Day 4 with five wickets in hand and India's chances for a win being high, but quick strikes from James Anderson and Ben Stokes derailed the visitors' chase.

“When Virat and Dinesh (Karthik) walked out I genuinely believed we had the aces in our hands. And that wicket the first blow was quite crucial. Our talk in the morning was about trying to stick together and be behind every one that walks out to bat. I thought we did pretty well, and even when Umesh (Yadav) was batting, our hopes were alive.

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“We did think that if Hardik could lay his hands on a couple big shots we were in the game. I have been on tours since 2011 and that way this team has got a really positive vibe in terms of atleast believing that we can pull it off from any stage. We have done it in the past, particularly in the last three or four away tours that we have been on. (But) If you have to win a Test series in England, that too a five-Test series, we will have to pull off something special at some stage,” he said.

The off-spinner, who took seven wickets in the match, said that his county stint with Worcestershire last summer has helped him a lot in tough conditions.

“Personally there were quite a few learnings (sic) from my stint last year here. Not just in terms of pure skill but also how the game is being read here, how players go about their business in terms of pacing out their innings, how much the Duke’s ball does in the first 40 overs, etc. Those are the learnings (sic) I had and as a spinner I feel the ball is definitely different to Kookaburra and SG.

“I think Duke’s is number one, Kookaburra is second, and SG is number three on the list (of spinner’s preference) where it stands today. And how wide my grip can be, how close I can get to it as the ball moves on and I felt like the ball was slipping also when I came last time for Worcester. So that was also in my mind when I came this time,” Ashwin said.

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The 31-year old said that his approach to the series has helped him in performing well at Edgbaston.

“I have just decided to enjoy my cricket and stop reading about anything. I think that’s a good way to fire myself up. My personal experience in the last 59 Tests has been the same and it is not going to be any different moving forward because as the game comes to an end I find myself at the end of the same circle. And the circle moves back to the starting point. I will ideally keep myself to the same starting point to keep the circle going,” he signed off.