Ashwin: Virat Kohli most “cerebral cricketer”, but I’m envious of Ravindra Jadeja

In an exclusive chat with veteran India batter WV Raman, Ravichandran Ashwin talks about the insecurities of being a cricketer, why he is envious of Ravindra Jadeja and much more.

Published : Nov 30, 2023 13:50 IST , CHENNAI - 5 MINS READ

Ravichandran Ashwin, in the latest episode of  Sportstar’s ‘Wednesdays with WV Raman’, shared his thoughts about being a cricketer, what makes Ravindra Jadeja an excellent player and how his cricketing acumen has served him well over the years. 

Ashwin, who is India’s second-highest wicket-taker in Tests with 489 scalps, is often considered one of the best off-spinners to grace the game. Often known not to mince his words, Ashwin said that while Virat Kohli is the most “cerebral cricketer” in the world today, the one he is envious of is Ravindra Jadeja. 

“Jadeja’s journey and mine are extremely contrasting. Jadeja can put a ball on the same spot day in and day out, be extremely athletic on the field, be extremely simple with the bat and be a million dollars on most days. I cannot afford to do that,” Ashwin said. 

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“For some reason, for a long time, I couldn’t express this to him. But I found a way to do so recently. There’s a constant tussle between us as well about who is better than the other. But the fact is that we don’t exist without the other. Without Jadeja there is no Ashwin, without Ashwin, there’s no Jadeja. But the fact is that he is extremely good at keeping it simple, not overthinking or being curious,” he added. 

“He cannot be who he is if he is constantly overthinking. This is a classic case of two people plying similar trades and finding success in their own ways. Curiosity worked for me, but it need not be everyone’s cup of tea. My environment was very supportive of me being curious and asking questions. [This] might not be the case with others.”

Cricketing intelligence

Apart from his proficiency in spin bowling, Ashwin is hailed for his understanding of the game. 

“Intelligence has served me well. Without exhibiting my intelligence, I would have probably accumulated a lot more laurels. I might have not put people in an uncomfortable or insecure position,” he said.

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“When I did exhibit my intelligence, my intention was not to exhibit it. I wanted to have an interesting conversation, which then may have turned sour. If somebody gave me another chance to live my 20 years all over again, the only change I would make is to pick and choose what to say when and to whom and what to ask when and to whom.”

“That’s the only thing I’d change with maturity because, without intelligence or curiosity, I would have lost interest in playing this game. This is the sole essence of me having played this game for so long.”

Focusing on the positives

Ashwin recalled WV Raman’s advice right before the former was about to break into the India team.

“I still remember the conversation you had with me in 2008-09 during the Ranji season. I had a great first year for TN, then I had a middling second year because of injury. The third year was ok, not great. Not sure if this was during the break of the third season. You came up to me and said - Ashwin there are two ways your life can go from here. Either you take off from here and don’t look back or you just settle down here and become another routine first-class cricketer. Not saying you won’t be a great first-class cricketer, but you’ll stay here. You said it was a big year for my career, either it would be a year of stagnation or one where I leap forward,” he said.

“I was driving back home. I remember I had a second-hand Santro then. I was listening to the radio, and one of my favourite songs was playing. I remember not paying attention to the song as my mind was stuck in that conversation. ‘Why did he say what he said?’ ‘Does he not want me in the team?’ These thoughts were all but natural because as a cricketer, you are taught all your life to not trust anything people say. 

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There’s a massive insecurity among cricketers that everyone is just here to take your spot and no one is here to do good for you and very few people come and do good for you. I kept thinking about this and eventually got home. Chepauk to West Mambalam is about a 20-25-minute drive, and I had not listened to one line of music. I was only thinking about you and your intentions. I came back and ate my food. I then realised that in whatever you said, there wasn’t an inch of a gain for you.

“You didn’t have to say that to me. The thought process I was going through was very negative, and I had a long think about why I chose to fixate on the negative when the first thing you said is I could soar upwards. From then on, whenever I had insecurity in life, I’ve made it a point to only focus on the positives and keep the negatives down. I did move ahead after that year.”

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