Ash­win spins In­dia back to the top

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MUM­BAI:

For those who feared for the fu­ture of fin­ger-spin bowl­ing, Ravichan­dran Ash­win’s stu­pen­dous suc­cess over the last 16 months has come as a mighty re­lief. While the art of off-spin has grap­pled with the men­ace of chuck­ing, the 30-year-old In­dian has risen to the top of the ICC test bowl­ing rank­ings on the back of seven Man of the Se­ries per­for­mances.

Apart from skip­per Vi­rat Kohli, no­body is more im­por­tant to In­dia’s test suc­cess on home soil and on Satur­day he will un­pack his bag of tricks in Mo­hali as the hosts at­tempt to lock up the five-test se­ries against Eng­land. All this suc­cess has come against the back­ground of the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil’s 2014 dec­la­ra­tion of war on off-spin­ners with il­le­gal ac­tions. Nu­mer­ous bowlers re­quired re­me­dial work to get back to per­mis­si­ble lim­its of bend in their el­bows and the crack­down wrecked the ca­reer of Pak­istan’s Saeed Aj­mal, one of the world’s lead­ing spin­ners in the post-Mut­tiah Mu­ralitha­ran era.

Ash­win, though, has man­aged to fox bats­men with­out ever need­ing to bend the rules. A tall off­spin­ner who bowls in half-sleeves, Ash­win is a rar­ity in an age when many slow bowlers look to hide the ex­tent of their el­bow bend un­der full sleeves. Against New Zealand in Septem­ber, Ash­win be­came the se­cond fastest bowler to take 200 test wick­ets, tak­ing one more match than for­mer Aus­tralia leg-spin­ner Clar­rie Grim­met (36) to achieve the feat. It has not al­ways been plain-sail­ing for Ash­win, how­ever, par­tic­u­larly out­side In­dia.

Over­seas strug­gles

An open­ing bats­man in ju­nior cricket whose fa­ther Ravichan­dran was a club pace­man, Ash­win trans­formed him­self into a off-spin­ner and emerged from the south­ern city of Chen­nai to over­take Harb­ha­jan Singh as In­dia’s lead­ing slow bowler. Two years af­ter mak­ing his de­but against West Indies in 2011, he went wick­et­less in both in­nings of the Jo­han­nes­burg test against South Africa and lost his place as num­ber one spin­ner to left-armer Ravin­dra Jadeja when In­dia were over­seas. “The crit­i­cism that came out of that game got the bet­ter of me,” Ash­win said re­cently. “It told me that I wasn’t good enough and that I needed to im­prove. It made me raise my stan­dards.” Re­turn­ing to the nets, he made some tweaks to his ac­tion and re­turned to the side in Eng­land in Au­gust 2014.

A slow bowler with a pen­chant for tar­get­ing the op­po­si­tion’s best bats­man, his ‘car­rom’ ball - a fin­ger-spin­ner de­liv­ered with the knuckle - has flum­moxed the best play­ers of spin. He also bowls a slider and has the abil­ity to sum­mon up the oc­ca­sional leg-break when he feels he needs it. With his re­fur­bished ar­moury, he picked up 62 wick­ets from nine tests in 2015 to fin­ish as the high­est wicket-taker in the world. He is firmly on course to re­peat the feat for a se­cond year with 55 wick­ets in nine matches so far and three more home tests against Eng­land to come. — Reuters

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