“The challenge is that you should be making newer mistakes. Newer mistakes means you are learning.”
—Sunil Subramanian, Ravichandran Ashwin’s mentor, describes his evolution as an off-spinner.
“I am 100 per cent method, 80 per cent skill and 150 per cent madness.”
What he said:
“I probably gave him a cheeky idea to try a mankad in the end. We might have taken flak, but why not.”
India’s Ravichandran Ashwin claims that he wasn’t averse to his teammate Hardik Pandya running out his Bangladeshi opponents in the final over of the crucial group encounter played at Bengaluru last evening.
The controversial method of getting batsmen out has been in the news ever since West Indian Keemo Paul mankaded a Zimbabwean player in the recent Under-19 ODI World Cup.
Pandya didn’t have to resort to such an eventuality; his skipper ran out Mustafizur Rahman at his end to clinch the game for India by one run.
What he really meant:
“The Mankad’s not illegal and a win is a win by any legal means.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Hardik Pandya and I wouldn’t take a running start at the bowler’s end were my team in the same situation.”
Ravichandran Ashwin’s revealing statement that his side underestimated par scores in the early part of the ODI series leading to their comeuppance against a marauding Australian batting line-up is right on the money.
The ace spinner said:
“In the past 300 or 260s have been winning scores when we came and played an ODI series here. I think we played in that mindset coming into the series, trying to post a score rather than trying to overachieving and falling short. I thought we did pretty well to post 310s and 320s, just that the par scores were 330s.”
It was only in the fourth and fifth ODIs that the Indians were a match for their opponents.
The lessons had been learned but it was too little, too late.
The ODI series was lost without a semblance of a whimper or a whisper.
“As you saw in the last game, even at Canberra and Sydney, I think we would have achieved 350s. Maybe that’s the reason. Obviously the wickets have gone flatter. So I think it was just a question of not calculating the par scores properly.”
Ashwin’s statements highlight the need to aim higher to get what you want.
If you aim for 300, you’re unlikely to get more than that. Less probably, but very rarely more.
The Indian team’s think-tank were definitely out of sync with the changing reality of Australian pitches outlandish batting skills in their young stars and the effect the ever changing ODI rules have had on team totals.
The irony is that this is the same kind of thinking that pervaded visiting teams’ thinking patterns when they assumed a score of 260-280 was good enough to clinch victory on sub-continental wickets a few seasons ago.
Indian batters proved them wrong easily overhauling these totals and posting 300+ totals when batting first.
It certainly has been an Indian summer Down Under this series.
MakeTimeForSports makes an attempt to get India Test skipper Virat Kohli to clarify his stand on MS Dhoni’s leadership.
1) How are you today? Are you able to express yourself freely?
Yes, without a doubt. I wouldn’t be talking to you otherwise.
2) Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin have come out in support of your predecessor and current ODI skipper MS Dhoni. What are your views on their remarks?
It’s not disrespectful to be willing to die for your skipper but the skipper is just a representative of the team and you should be willing to die for all your teammates. That’s the essence of team spirit. The spirit of Dhoni will linger on in the dressing room long after he’s gone and, in Ashwin’s case, on the field as well. Besides, this is probably the best and last chance for Raina and Ashwin to be dubbed Sir Suresh and Sir Ravichandran by his Royal Highness Maharaja Mahendra Singh Dhoni the First—or so a tweeting bird informs me!
3) Dhoni’s coach Chanchal Bhattacharjee and yours’ Raj Kumar Sharma have commented on India’s abysmal showing in the ODI series with Sharma terming the 2nd loss the ‘Black Sunday of Indian cricket’. Your thoughts?
Look on the other side. It was a Bright Sunday for Bangladesh. You win some, you lose some and make some remarks about the team not being able to express itself freely. Sunny side up, my man, sunny side up.
4) What do you think should the Indian team do to be able to express themselves more freely and with more clarity?
For a start, they should grow beards like mine and curse and glare when they are adjudged out. They should also consider dating film-stars and models. I’m sure Anushka can introduce them to some of her single colleagues.
5) Would you have considered stepping down if it had been you in the driver’s seat and not Dhoni yet the same outcome?
Huh! The possibility never crossed my mind.
Disclaimer: The character(s) are real but the interview is fictional.
Virat Kohli is avowedly a proponent of the “six batsmen, five bowlers” theory in Test cricket.
The dynamic India Test skipper believes that it is the only way to win games and be aggressive.
In theory, it is a wonderful ploy. Six batsmen should be able to get the team the desired runs on the scoreboard. Five specialist bowlers ought to be able to bowl out the opposition and restrict them if required. This would also decrease the load on the fast bowlers, especially the Indian ones who seem to lack the legs to come charging in at the end of the day when the new ball is available. Bowling 18 overs in a day is somewhat more palatable.
“I would want someone like R Ashwin, who is averaging 40 with the bat in Test matches – you really can’t ask for more from an allrounder – and someone like Harbhajan Singh to step up with the bat, and [Wriddhiman] Saha too. If those three start clicking, you literally have eight batsmen, and you can’t really ask for more as a captain. It’s basically up to the first six to take more responsibility and we are confident of doing that.”
The above statement requires further analysis.
The stratagem, as stated, will execute just fine on sub-continental wickets. It is when India tours England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that the shortcomings become evident.
The team need batsmen who can exhibit patience, fortitude and technique abroad to counter the fast bowling threat. The nucleus of the side, thus, has to remain unchanged. I am not a fan of the ‘horses-for-courses‘ method of selecting the side.
Quicker, bouncier wickets would need Team India to play three or four pacers. Are any of these in the all-rounder mold? Except for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Irfan Pathan (perennially injured), none of the current lot inspire confidence.
Gone are the days when the likes of Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Manoj Prabhakar could be counted on to contribute 20-30 runs with the bat and two to three wickets with the ball.
Fast bowling all-rounders, as a breed, are almost extinct on the Indian cricketing scene while batsmen-wicketkeepers flourish aplenty.
Perhaps, the new Ranji regime where games are played on grassy pitches with steeper bounce will revive the species.
What went wrong with a team that came into the semi-finals undefeated, winning seven straight games in a row?
What can explain the abject display of this Indian side once they came up against their bete-noire of the last five months? Was it another case of déjà vu?
First, the Australians scored 30-50 runs more than our batters could easily achieve. A score of around 280 was chaseable against their strong bowling attack. Once the Aussies went past the psychological barrier of 300, it was an uphill struggle. Dhoni missed a trick by not letting Umesh Yadav bowl the last over. He was the only one who looked like getting wickets in his final spell and a couple of wickets more could have restricted the Aussies to a less substantial total.
The loss of Shikhar Dhawan began the slide. The left-handed opener was looking good for yet another ton but threw it away in a moment of casual lassitude. Rohit Sharma has scored runs but all of his big scores have come against the lesser sides. The Mumbaikar once again failed to step up to the plate when it mattered. How different is this Sharma from the one who made his debut in 2007-08? Have the years left their scars?
Virat Kohli disappointed. And much as Dhoni tomtoms Ravindra Jadeja’s abilities with the bat, the ‘all-rounder’ has no business being in the side if he cannot average at least a decent 30—both at home and away. Sure, he has three triple centuries in domestic cricket but if that’s the reason he’s in the side, then he should be batting further up the order, not with the tail.
The Indians were probably looking at chasing 328 in chunks. A score of 100 in 20 overs, 200 in 35 and 260 in 40 (power play) would have left them chasing less than 70 in the final 10 overs. It was not to be.
Dhoni’s unwillingness to experiment against the minnows meant that the Indians went up against the Aussies with a closed mindset. What works all the time will fail some day. What then?
Indian fans have a lot to cheer about. At the outset, no one expected this side to travel this far. Winning the trophy would have had their cup of joy overflowing but it would not be a true reflection of the capabilities and form of this side.
Overall, a fair result.
What he said:
“Sometimes, being over-aroused is as bad as being under-aroused.”
Team India’s new bowling coach, Bharat Arun, has the readers flummoxed.
What is he talking about?
The Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) at the New South Wales Education and Communities website defines Optimum Arousal thus:
“While anxiety is predominately a psychological state, arousal refers to a physiological state. Arousal can be described as the degree of energy release and the intensity of readiness of the performer or as drive or excitation. There are levels of arousal that can produce optimal performance depends on the sport and the individual. Arousal is a necessary ingredient in sports performance, although its level can wither, facilitate or hinder the execution of specific skills or task components. Arousal levels vary on a continuum from deep sleep to high excitement.
Optimal arousal does not mean maximal arousal. Both over-arousal and under-arousal can contribute to poor performance. An individual will perform a skill most successfully when the level of arousal is optimal for that particular task. A poor performance may be due to low level of arousal, perhaps resulting from distraction, disinterest or a depressed level of motivation. The other end of the spectrum is a state of over-arousal, whereby the athlete is unable to perform the required movement with precision because he/she is excessively tense and unable to concentrate.
Levels of arousal vary considerably between individuals and they respond to different stimuli to raise or lower their levels of arousal. Arousal has drive properties, meaning that the manipulation of factors that affect anxiety can increase or decrease arousal. Generally, athletes who have a high disposition towards anxiety require less arousal than those who have a low disposition towards anxiety.”
Arun was responding to Ravichandran Ashwin being a “very intense cricketer.”
“There is an optimum level of arousal that a player needs to maintain, and that’s what we mean by controlled aggression. When you get too deep into something, you don’t see the little but important things around you. We keep reminding him not to get there and help him maintain the optimum arousal level. Once we do that, he is okay.”
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?”