The Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP) is a vast complex situated in Savar, which is an hour’s drive from the plush hotel where the Indian team is put up in Dhaka. The BKSP was called the Bangladesh Institute of Sports till the mid-1980s before it was rechristened. It is what the National Institute of Sport in Patiala is to India.
One has to go over a river, drive between fields and through dusty two-lane asphalt road before the green expanse of the BKSP arrives on the right. The Indian team made its journey from Dhaka to Savar on Saturday afternoon for their first practice session ahead of the World T20.
Once at the entrance of the BKSP-IV ground, the driver of the team bus realised that the mouth of the road was too narrow to drive through. So the players took a five-minute walk to the practice facility. It seemed to take an eternity for the Indian side to arrive for practice, but once they did, they got down to business quickly.
There were two wickets at the BKSP – one in the centre of the ground and the other at the far end. It was at the latter wicket that the spinners assembled, and among them was off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The bowling unit has recently struggled more than the batting, and in India’s difficult overseas run, a question or two has been asked over the effectiveness of the spin unit. Here, however, the wickets are likely to aid the slower bowlers, and the side will count on Ashwin’s experience in Twenty20 (he has also played 19 Tests and 79 ODIs). Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, leg spinner Amit Mishra and all-rounder Yuvraj Singh will complete the set of spinners in the side.
But the scrutiny will be severe on Ashwin, who has shown a recent revival in form during the Asia Cup but had a prolonged dry run in South Africa and New Zealand before that. Ashwin finished the Asia Cup with nine wickets in four games, an improvement from the two wickets in eight away ODI games in the southern hemisphere.
The Asia Cup was also a tournament in which Ashwin decided to experiment with his bowling action. He delivered the ball in a manner similar to that of West Indies’ Sunil Narine — front-on and high-arm. Though the tweaked approach earned Ashwin criticism, the off-spinner said on Saturday that he had backed himself to pull it off.
“I think there has been a lot of speculation about what I did. There are enough and more experts going around who know the game really well and do a very good job of it. As far as I am concerned, if I am really convinced about doing something, then I go ahead and do it rather than sit back and say I could have done this. I would rather go out there, try it and see how it comes out. There’s not much more I can add to it. I have tried it; it was not like it was hammered, it was not like it was venomous,” Ashwin said.
During India’s first practice session at the BKSP, Ashwin started off bowling with his regular action before slipping in a couple of deliveries with the modified one. Ashwin said that he was convinced that he was doing the right thing by trying to mix up things. “Generally I keep trying different things whenever I go for a practice session. We have a lot of practice sessions — like someone turns up at office. If you are not going to do something different, eventually you are going to get bored with what you are doing, that’s how I see it. I keep trying things. If there is something I think can be applied in a match scenario, I go and do it. It’s about trying to take the opinion of people around me; I see how they take it. If I am convinced, I will go out and try it. Unless you try it, you will never know,” Ashwin added.
During the World T20, Ashwin will not only be called upon to get breakthroughs but may also have to bowl in the Powerplay overs. “Yes, there are going to be scars that you carry from the previous game, but predominantly, the scars that the Indian team carries is from what they read. I try and replicate as many times as possible an aggressive mindset when I go into a game. When I am not able to do it, I still will my mind to get around to doing it.”