Ravichandran Ashwin seeks an oasis in cricket’s desert.
What he said:
“For me, a bowler will always be a mirage and a batsman will always be water.”
Ravichandran Ashwin opens up to BCCI.tv about the game he cherishes so much.
On what’s hardest about being a bowler in a sport that’s loaded more-and-more towards the batsman:
“There are so many small aspects that condition your mind based on whether you are a bowler or a batsman. For a bowler, the best number he can achieve in an innings is 10 but for a batsman there is no limit. The mirage of numbers is very big and it dilutes the importance of what a bowler can do. It brings inequality in how mediocrity is measured for a bowler and a batsman. For me, a bowler will always be a mirage and a batsman will always be water.”
Other gems from the rare chat from the heart include:
On his action becoming more side-on:
“It’s not like I have suddenly gotten more side-on and made the change abruptly. I have been working on it since I started to play international cricket. I have played around with the angle of my action throughout my career and so, it is not something totally new. When you’re trying to get into different positions in your action, it’s about stability and how repeatable the action is. These are the things that get compromised when it comes to positioning of your body at the crease. Your strength and core stability matters a lot at the crease. The strength of the core is as important for a spinner as it is for a fast bowler because you’ve got to transfer your weight towards the batsman’s direction. If you ask me whether it is difficult to change that position, I would say it isn’t. That doesn’t mean I can turn up tomorrow and do it but because everything can be worked out, adjusted, practised and put into place. What’s important is the willingness to accept change, practice and conviction.”
Expounding on the mystery balls of modern cricket:
“To bowl a doosra, you have to be more open-chested. And an open-chested action brings along all the other shortcomings. There have been many open-chested off-spinners in the past. I used to be a semi-open bowler when I started but then I learned to be more side-on. There are certain complexities when it comes to a bowler’s action and there is no one general rule that applies. But it is nearly impossible to bowl a doosra with a side-on action.
The carom ball is very different in that regards because it is all about how you flick your finger at the time of release. Here, the action doesn’t matter but the release point does. There are a lot of adaptations of the carom ball. You can get your arm a little side-on, try to get it a little hyper-extended or you can change the angle by keeping your chest open. On different wickets different things might work. You will have to put yourself in all scenarios in a bid to determine the best method for a particular pitch.”
Is he an over-thinker?
“It is something that people can tag you with and I don’t think I am an over-thinker. There is a fair amount of sensible thinking that is there. When your sensible thinking is beaten by someone else, it becomes over-thinking on your part. The whole idea of playing this game is to try and out-smart the other set of 11 people. I never have to tell myself to control what I am thinking because it is probably my strongest asset. Someone else might achieve success using brute force but for me it’s all about trying to analyse the game, and I do it a way that works for me. There is no boundary to determine what amount of thinking is right and when it becomes over-thinking. Perfect thinking is just that tipping point where everything works.”
On bowling rhythm:
“When you’re in rhythm, it all comes out as a poem. But when a bowler is not in rhythm, he tries to find it. In that bid there are a lot of things that can go wrong. You hurry up to the crease, you finish a little faster or later, you try to spin the ball harder and it comes out a touch late, or you toss it up a bit more – all these things happen.”
On bowling in a full-sleeved shirt recently:
“I wasn’t trying to suggest anything. But I felt that if there is an advantage to be gained, why should I lag behind in gaining it? If the ICC is allowing 15 degrees then why shouldn’t I make the most of it? But doing it all of a sudden is very difficult. So, I did go through some practice and I have also done it a few IPL games. People actually don’t pick on these things unless it’s come out and spoken about. Probably I didn’t exceed 15 degrees because my arm is ramrod straight. But I have been trying the doosra on and off for about two years in IPL and I even bowl it in the nets to see how it goes. I wanted to give it a try in an international game and I would feel really shy and conscious doing it in a half sleeved shirt. So, I turned up wearing full sleeves.”
On the recent crackdown in bowling actions:
“… if the game is to move forward, dodgy actions have to be weeded out.”
On spin bowling being an art or a science:
“It’s pure art as far as I am concerned. There is no brute force; it’s all about subtlety, how supple your fingers are and how much of revolution you can give on the ball. You can deploy science to the process but what you deliver is art. Cricket can never be beaten by science and I can give that to you in writing. A cricketer can never be modeled by science alone, but a cricketer can be made better by science.”
Do cricketers live in a bubble?
“I have heard of the bubble and have seen people living in it. First, I don’t live in a bubble. The bubble forms when your success brings about a massive change in your lifestyle and your relationships with the world. For me, even today, the thing that makes me the happiest is to take a walk around my house with my wife and family or to take my dogs out for a walk. I genuinely believe that staying away from the bubble shouldn’t be a problem. When I am loitering around in the area I live in, the chai wala and all other shopkeepers know me, say hello to me and are happy to see me. They have watched me grow up and they’re like family to me. Interaction with a common man is never a problem with me. At times you do feel egoistic but it’s your ego and you can beat it. I surely can. As far as the post-retirement blues are concerned, I believe it depends on how you live your life while you are playing cricket.”
What Ashwin really meant:
“It’s much more difficult for a bowler to get a fifer in an innings than for a batsman to get a hundred. The probability is much lower. It boils down to what’s more achievable, more attainable. Becoming a batsman is more real and the returns more tangible.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Yes, I’m making a case for India to take on Pakistan in the Abu Dhabi desert. How’s that for a mirage?”