Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar heaped praise on R Ashwin, saying the off-spinner did more than what captain Virat Kohli could have asked from him on a crucial second day of the ongoing first Test against Australia in Adelaide.
Gavaskar said he was impressed with the way Ashwin stuck to his stock deliveries and focused on the line outside the off-stump. He also opined that the veteran off-spinner may have picked up a thing or two from his Australian counterpart, Nathan Lyon.
Ashwin’s inability to be as effective as he is at home in overseas conditions had been a cause for concern for the Indian visiting teams in the past. The 32-year-old’s average in Australia before the Adelaide Test was 54.71 whereas his career average reads an impressive 25.37.
Notably, during the 2014-15 tour, the then stand-in captain, Kohli had preferred rookie leg-spinner Karn Sharma over Ashwin for the first Test in Adelaide.
With Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav breathing down his neck for a spot in the playing XI, Ashwin was under considerable pressure in the lead up to the first Test of the ongoing tour.
However, the off-spinner shone on Friday, picking up three Australian top-order wickets – Marcus Harris, Shaun Marsh, and Usman Khawaja. Displaying brilliant control and hitting the right lines and lengths, it is safe to say Ashwin has won the Round 1 of the battle between the two top-quality off-spinners in the series.
“He certainly has picked up a thing or two from Nathan Lyon, there is nothing wrong from learning from the opposition if it’s going to help your own game. You don’t want to copy but you can take things and bring it to your own game when it certainly helps. This is wonderful bowling,” Gavaskar told Sony Six on Friday.
“He did more than that [what Kohli could have asked from him] because he bowled really well. He concentrated on bowling the off-spinners more than the other variety he has. We saw a little bit of variety when Pat Cummins came into bat otherwise, he was bowling the stock ball all the time. He was varying his speeds, flight but basically, he kept the pressure on the batsmen, didn’t give them anything.
“3 for 50 of the number of overs he bowled just tells you how well he bowled. Nobody tried to attack him or nobody was trying to attack him when he tossed the ball up.
“Those two deliveries that he bowled – the one that got Marcus Harris when he was well set – and the one that got Usman Khawaja were top stuff.”
cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 7, 2018
Ashwin has fixed the problem with his line: Gavaskar
Gavaskar also pointed out that Ashwin has fixed his long-standing problem of bowling a middle-leg line to right-handers which had made him ineffective, especially in overseas conditions.
The batting great pointed out how he had struggled in England, especially in Southampton where he was not able to hit the bowler’s footmarks which England all-rounder Moeen Ali did, consistently.
While Ali picked up nine wickets in the Test to spin England to an unassailable 3-1 lead in a five-match series, Ashwin managed only three.
However, in Adelaide, It was refreshing to see Ashwin being patient and being consistent with the line he was bowling throughout the day.
There were a few footmarks on the pitch but the Adelaide Oval track wasn’t a rank turner by any means. However, Ashwin troubled the batsmen by getting the ball to drift both ways, which he acknowledged after the absorbing day’s play.
“He [Ashwin] did [fixed the problem of bowling too straight to the right handers]. That’s exactly what he needs to do. When you’re bowling, even in the subcontinent where it turns and grips, if you’re bowling a middle and leg line, a lot of time, the ball is going to turn so much that you’re not going to get an LBW. But if you bowl just outside the line like he was ball today, if the ball turns in you’ll get your man LBW or caught at forward short leg.”