Over a decade-long international career, Ravichandran Ashwin has seen cricket change vastly.
The craft that Ashwin masters – finger spin – has probably had to bear the worst of the sport in its ever-evolving modern-day form. It has become a dwindling art with wrist spinners, and their nifty variations, ruling the roost now.
Take the IPL 2023 for instance. Moeen Ali, Maheesh Theekshana, Washington Sunder and Hrithik Shokeen are the only other right-arm off-spin bowlers who play regularly in the league.
Even beyond the IPL, off-spinners, even spinners as a lot, have been eclipsed by pacers – in terms of impact and importance in the team.
In the recent past, the Indian team, which fielded spin-heavy bowling attacks, has consciously backed fast bowlers in overseas conditions.
“I think there was a significant approach in terms of wanting to play fast, bowling better, wanting to, you know, win abroad and all that. But it has got its rewards also, right? We can see that we have won a lot more abroad in the last 10 years than we probably have before.
“For the spinners, maybe, it’s been a little impairing. They don’t come enough into play because the margins are very little. The captains don’t want to give that away,” Ashwin said at an event for the launch of the partnership between his cricket academy GenNext and 22yards.
R Ashwin in action against Australia during the recent Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
| Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI / The Hindu.
But even at this crossroad, Ashwin reaffirms his faith in spinners’ abilities to hold their own and survive. Adaptability is the key, he feels.
“I mean, you can’t just put your hand up and say there won’t be any off spinners. (Or) you can’t vouch and say this guy will come through. I think it’s not just about off spin or leg spin but being able to adapt on the go, whatever the game is presenting to you.
“Each day is going to present its own challenges. So, I think it’s about how you get through that particular day,” he said.
To his credit, this very adaptability has seen Ashwin collect nearly 700 wickets in international cricket.
But his last appearance in the shorter formats, in the national colours, came in November 2022, during the T20 World Cup. He last played a One-Day International in January 2022.
Eyes are on Ashwin whether he makes the ODI team for the 2023 World Cup in India. But the 36-year-old prefers to not dwell too much in the future.
“I haven’t thought about it that much to be honest. Whatever presents itself presents itself. I think I’m far more mature as an individual cricketer right now and I feel I want to just take it one at a time. The IPL is a long tournament. Just finish it. Then there is a World Test Championship final. Take it one at a time. Indian cricket has given me so much and it is my top priority. I would keep vouching for whatever is good for Indian cricket”
It is for this good, that Ashwin, and his wife Prithi, joined hands with 22yards to develop two cricket academies with state-of-the-art facilities in Chennai.
“For a long time, I have aimed to identify top talents. It all just started with a seed of thought and now we’ve entered our 10th year.
“IPL, according to me, is one of the main reasons that we’re competing internationally. Players who used to play first-class cricket for two-three months a year are now allowed to practise in a world-class setup, thanks to the infrastructure here. And hopefully academies like these will help implement this kind of infrastructure at the grassroots level.”