Ravichandran Ashwin (left) made a strong comeback with the ball, picking up three wickets in England’s first innings © Getty Images
Ravichandran Ashwin broke his overseas drought when he picked up the wicket of Gary Ballance on Day Two of the fifth Test against England at The Oval. It took Ashwin more than two years to pick a Test wicket away from home, as his last scalp had come in Adelaide in 2012. Ashwin bowled well on Day Two and if he can build on that performance, India may consider him to be their leading spinner ahead of the Australia tour, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
It took Ravichandran Ashwin more than two years, 83 overs and 226 runs to take an overseas Test wicket. The Indian off-spinner’s last Test wicket away from home came at the Adelaide Oval in 2012 and three Tests later, he broke that drought by dismissing Gary Ballance at The Oval. It wasn’t just about the fact that he took wickets, but he looked threatening and troubled the batsmen with his off-spin. There has been a huge debate about Ashwin’s effectiveness overseas and though this wasn’t a spectacular performance, it should help him gain confidence.
On home soil, Ashwin has been the king. Against the touring sides, he has been almost unplayable, picking up wickets in bagfuls. Ashwin is one of the fastest to get to 100 Test wickets. But, one can see the anomaly in the figures. Out of his 106 Test wickets, only 11 have come overseas from six Tests — which includes his two scalps on Day Two at The Oval. This number just goes to reflect how dominant he has been at home and the fact that he has searched for the same guile overseas.
In his two overseas Tests after the Australia tour in 2011-12, Ashwin failed to take wickets. At Johannesburg last year, he conceded 108 runs in the two innings and was dropped in favour of Ravindra Jadeja for the Durban Test. Brought back at Manchester eight months down the line, he hardly bowled and did not have much to do. Ahead of the Australia tour later this year, he had to inspire confidence and put in a good performance.
Ashwin was ready to give the ball air and doled out his variations. He could have had Ballance earlier, but Ajinkya Rahane failed to grasp it at first slip. Ashwin then played a game of foxing the batsman on length. Ballance was made to play at one that was a little short and he played it straight into the hands of the short-leg fielder. Moeen Ali then got a taste of his own medicine as Ashwin persisted with an attacking line. That was the positive to emerge — Ashwin was ready to bring an attacking instinct in play even when the surface did not have much in store for him.
At home, Ashwin is a certainty in the eleven. Perhaps, even Pragyan Ojha would come in and strengthen the spin-attack. It is only overseas that Ashwin had to compete with Ravindra Jadeja for a spot. If he can build on this performance on Day Three, India may choose him as theirfrontline spinner in Australia. When he started out, Anil Kumble too didn’t have a very good time overseas either and it was only in later years that he persisted and emerged successful. Ashwin would take heart from India’s highest wicket-taker’s development.
Catch all the coverage of India’s tour to England here
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)