R Ashwin’s mysterious new action produce same old results
India cruised to victory in their first match of the Asia Cup against Bangladesh thanks to a now-too-familiar Virat Kohli ton in the chase. But while the win was welcome, much of the attention was focussed on off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s remodelled action. The off-spinner has been struggling to get wickets in recent matches and even lost his place as the side’s premier spinner to Ravindra Jadeja. It was clear that Ashwin needed to change something and he decided that it was action that needed not just some minor tweaking but a full fledged break-it-down and build-it-up job. Ashwin has been known to employ many different actions in the shorter formats of the game but this wasn’t just a kink. It was a complete overhaul. He had not showed off the new action in the nets, he had not talked about it in the media either. In fact, he had concentrated more on his batting in the nets.
Ashwin’s ‘actual’ action is usually more side-on. But what he rolled out on Wednesday seemed closer to Sunil Narine’s action — designed to help him bowl the ball that goes away from the batsman with more guile. He seemed to concentrate on keeping the ball hidden behind his head in delivery stride. It seemed to work initially — he got a wicket with his first ball… a nicely flighted delivery that foxed the batsman. An inside edge off the pads made it’s way to Dinesh Kartik, who completed the stumping in quick time. Ashwin didn’t take a wicket for the rest of the match, ending up with match figures of 10-1-50-1. The rapid changes, however, haven’t caught anyone’s fancy. In the Indian Express, former India spinner Maninder Singh said: “If Ashwin has started bowling a lot of variations then simply the captain and the coach are letting him do it. When the whole world knew what it was leading up to, the captain and the coach didn’t know? They should have just asked him to stop there and then. If they don’t do it even now, we may see him bowling medium pace soon.” Rameez Raja, on air, was more supportive: “Maybe, he tweaked his action to generate more bounce but that wasn’t visible.” Former India spin great Bishen Singh Bedi said on Twitter that perhaps Ashwin needs a break. “Seems Ashwin is thoroughly confused-needs a break a la Trott of Eng! No point expecting anything from disturbed mind! What wrong did Pervez Rasool do?!” The crux of the matter, however, is whether the change will be good for him in the long run. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni often speaks about keeping the shape while going for the big shots but what does one do if the orgininal shape stands forgotten. In the past, greats like Erapalli Prasanna and others have recommened that Ashwin go back to the basics and work on his stock off-spinning delivery instead of trying out too many variations. However, Ashwin seems to have clearly decided that the stock model isn’t good enough for him. He’s hoping that his variations will do the trick for him. But how long before he ditches this for something new again?