R Ashwin and Virat Kohli are decisively on the way to scaling new hights
“Ashwin is Sir Don Bradman of bowling.” “I have never seen a better batsman than Virat Kohli in my lifetime.” These are the two seminal statements pertaining to the contemporary cricket. And, these statements have not come from any cricketing fan. Nor, are they outpouring of the inner feelings of cricket writers. But, these are the two statements which have come from two of the greatest players of world cricket. As per former Australian captain Steve Waugh, Ravichandran Ashwin is the Don Bradman of bowling. And, as per former India captain and all rounder, Kapil Dev Nikhanj, Virat Kohli is the best batsman he has ever seen. And, both of them, Waugh and Kapil played very tough cricket, in their era and times. And, they were renowned in their times, not to give an inch to their peers and adversaries. And here, they are giving miles to the two of the contemporary superstars of world cricket.
We have had Chandrasekhar-Bedi-Prasanna-Venkatraghwan era when they mesmirised the best in the business with their spinning talent. We have had Sunil Manohar Gavaskar era, when he faced the most ferocious pace attack in world cricket in uncovered wickets with gusto. We have had the times of Kapil Dev, when he competed with the all rounder triumvirate of Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan. We have had the fabulous four era of Indian batting led by great Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar—in whom Don Bradman himself saw his mirror image. Indian dressing room, not very long back, was adorned by tenacious and perseverant spinning legend Anil Kumble. But perhaps, this is for the first time, when potentially the best batsman and the best bowler of the contemporary cricket happens to be an Indian. Yes, Virat Kohli and R Ashwin, are decisively, on the way of scaling the Mount Everest of cricket. Kohli, being a batsman, has been discussed in media a lot. This is the time to discuss, Ramachandran Ashwin, the bowler.
Life is full of surprises. And, twists and turns of life, have caught off the guard, the best of the fortune tellers. And, cricket is the rear image of life. So, it”s called the game of glorious uncertainties. Ramachandran Ashwin, coming from the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu, was originally a batsman, who used to bowl. And, then he turned into an off spinner, who also bats. More, importantly, he came in an era, when T20 cricket became the in thing and when spinners were supposed to be on an eternal backfoot. The beauty of Ashwin is that he has been able to use all this to his advantage. The fact that he started off as a batsman has helped him. As India Cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara says, “The biggest strength of Ashwin is that he”s a bowler who thinks like a batsman.” And, when you start thinking as a batsman with the bowl in your hand, you outsmart the batsman facing you with regularity. Ashwin, has mastered this art. The Indian off spinner has also taken advantage of the T20 era to its hilt. As former Indian spinner Maninder Singh says, “What initially stroked me about Ashwin was his aggressive approach. In T20 cricket, and that too in the Indian Premier League, most of the bowlers tend to just contain the batsman in their quota of four overs . But Ashwin was different. He not only attacked the batsman, but also dared to experiment. Today also, Ashwin is at his best when he attacks.” Ashwin, took this mindset to the one day Internationals and subsequently to the test cricket. And, the result is there for all to see.
When you make experiment your weapon even in the heat of international cricket, you need to be gutsy and mentally strong. And, Ashwin had tonnes of this, even when he stepped into the international arena. Flashback to world cup 2011. When India started the campaign, Ashwin was the second choice. Harbhajan Singh was the preferred spinner in the team. But, when in one of the press conferences, when captain MS Dhoni was asked as to why Ashwin was not given a chance in the playing eleven, his answer stumped everyone. “Ashwin is mentally strong. Very strong. Even if he gets his chance at the knock out stage of the tournament, he will cope up. Whereas others will take time to acclimatize,” said Dhoni. This was a profound statement related to someone who had just entered the international arena. “When you tend to experiment, there are moments when you will not get the desired outcome. There will be times when it can backfire as well. But if you are mentally strong like Ashwin, you will take all these in stride,” says Dr Saranjeet Singh, an eminent physical and mental sports trainer of the country.
The fastest one to reach the benchmark of 250 wickets is Indian spinner R Ashwin. And, on an average he is taking more than 50 wickets in a calendar year. It”s said, that spinners mature with age. If he continues at this pace, he has got the potential to be amongst the top. The Indian off spinner is also fortunate to have someone like Anil Kumble as the chief coach in the dressing room. Kumble himself was mentally tough and a thinking bowler like Ashwin of his times. There is however, one aspect in which Kumble can mentor Ashwin the most. Anil Kumble, for a considerable timeline in his career was supposed to be a domestic wicket bully. But, he started adapting himself in overseas wicket. Subsequently, he became a lethal bowler in all bowling conditions.
Like Kumble was then, Ashwin too, till date is work in progress. One of the spinners whom Ashwin replaced in the team, had raised questions about him getting most of the wickets in turning tracks. It cannot be negated that his record overseas pales in significance when compared to domestic dominance. But then, it’s true with most of the bowlers. Ashwin road to the all time greatness will pass through the rugged terrain of overseas wicket challenges in Australia, South Africa and England. “Ashwin has in him to conquer this final frontier. And if, under the mentorship of Kumble, he conquers this final frontier, no one can stop him from being one of the all time greatest,” says Saranjeet Singh.
We have talked about Virat Kohli. We have talked about Ravichandran Ashwin. We have also passingly mentioned about 2011 World Cup, which Indian cricket team won. There is a correlation between all these three. 2011 was the world cup when two of the emerging stars forced their way into the playing eleven. And, they
didn”t look back since the six years down the line; they have emerged as the lynchpin of Indian cricket. Virat Kohli the captain and Ravichandran Ashwin the vice captain has today forged a strong bonding and
partnership which is going to take Indian cricket to altogether different trajectory. Touch Wood.
(The writer is a senior sports journalist)