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Saeed Ajmal and Ravichandran Ashwin – off-spinners with a difference

Ravichandran Ashwin (left and Saeed Ajmal © Getty Images
Ravichandran Ashwin (left) and Saeed Ajmal have had contrasting fortunes in recent times © Getty Images (File Photo)

Ravichandran Ashwin and Saeed Ajmal, the two off-spinners will be pitted against each other when India take on arch-rivals, Pakistan. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes that Ajmal may have the upper hand.

Although India and Pakistan are two nations cut out of the same piece of land, their cricketing fortunes have been quite contrasting. While Pakistan have gone onto produce some of the finest fast-bowlers in history, India have been a factory of batsmen. However, there is one factor that has often been common and that is spin. Both sides have produced some world-class spinners, men who have added new dimension to the trade. As the two rivals brace for a high-octane contest at the Asia Cup 2014, two off-spinners, Saeed Ajmal and Ravichandran Ashwin would be in focus for contrasting reasons.

 

Ajmal has been Pakistan’s trump-card since his debut at the age of 30 in 2008. Six years on, he is still going very strong and is one of the most potent spinners in the world. His variations have dumbfounded batsmen; the doosra continues to dazzle the crowds and baffle the batsmen.  Ashwin is in the same foil as well. He also depends on those slightly unorthodox variations to do the job. It has to be said that Ajmal has been much more consistent and is a bigger threat than Ashwin. Their career graphs in recent times have been opposite. While Ajmal has continued to move from strength-to-strength, Ashwin has struggled in recent times.

If one looks at their overall record, Ajmal is miles ahead. Here are the records:

M

W

Bowl Ave

5W

4W

Saeed Ajmal

107

174

22.54

2

6

R Ashwin

77

100

34.14

0

0

Ajmal has played 23 games more than Ashwin, but leads by a whopping 74 wickets. Ashwin’s average is 34.14, whereas Ajmal’s is an impressive 22.54. Ashwin has delivered those impact spells from time-to-time, but it is interesting to note that he hasn’t picked up a five-wicket haul, nor has he recorded a four-for.

What may be worrying India though is that Ashwin’s recent poor form. He did make a good comeback against Sri Lanka in the last game with a spell of two for 42, but has to maintain that in the coming games. For someone who has been India’s strike-bowler since the 2011 World Cup, a career average of 34.14 doesn’t make a very good reading. He does have the momentum on his side and would be waiting to bowl on a Bangladeshi surface that may aid his trade.

Having said that, Ajmal has a superior record in Bangladeshi conditions. Here are their numbers in Bangladesh:

M

W

Bowl Ave

5W

4W

Saeed Ajmal

10

17

18

0

0

R Ashwin

5

8

30.37

0

0

Ajmal has played twice as many games as Ashwin in the country. However, he has shown the ability to strike in any conditions and although the Indian batsmen are known to be good players of spin, he does have a good record against them. Irrespective of how they tackle the others, Indian batsmen have found it tough against Ajmal. On the other hand, Ashwin may have a different bag of tricks and his variations may have an effect; also the different actions may cause issues.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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