Ask most experts and they’ll tell you that cricket, in the end, is a simple game. However, India’s R Ashwin seems to differ on it.
The right-arm off-break bowler has been way off-colour in the four matches so far, returning with just five wickets at an average economy rate of above six per over. More worryingly, save the first ODI in Pune, he hasn’t finished his full quota of 10 overs. For a frontline spinner in a team that treats spin as its biggest weapon, this is inexplicable.
What’s more, Ravindra Jadeja has out-bowled Ashwin in this series, and skipper MS Dhoni has thrown the ball to Jadeja before his first-choice spinner in two of the four matches.
It might be safe to say that Ashwin’s undoing, or at least a major part of it, has been himself. He has a knack of over-complicating things, trying too many variations too frequently and too soon, giving those long pauses before deliveries that can only upset his rhythm. He has been criticised for it too, but it doesn’t seem to bother him much, for he reiterated here that “my bowling is completely on instinct”.
On Tuesday, however, during the separate training session for the Indian bowlers next to the match wicket, Ashwin decided to change his norm, and keep it simple. He bowled 30-odd balls almost identically, in the same motion – giving the ball nice drift, pitching it outside off consistently and getting it back in for a right hander. No doosras, no carom balls, no intended pauses. Just some good old-fashioned spin bowling.
It is anybody’s guess if he follows it in the match on Wednesday. The fact remains that Ashwin’s indifferent performance in this series has remained hidden in comparison to the pacers’.
And if India are to have any chance of winning this series, their spin spearhead will have to step up, especially considering the fact that India’s back-up spinner in the squad – Amit Mishra – had a fantastic tour of Zimbabwe (18 wickets in five matches) and is constantly breathing down Ashwin’s neck.
To be fair, the new ODI rules have made it tougher for the spinners, but as Ashwin said on Tuesday, “The demands of the game are such that you need to keep evolving as a cricketer.
Whatever changes are being made, I have to try and cope up with it. I am sure all cricketers are doing the same thing. There’s nothing much you can do about it.”