Ravichandran Ashwin had a wicket with the first ball he bowled on Wednesday. It came off a flighted delivery that Mominul Haque inside-edged onto his pads with the ricochet getting to Dinesh Karthik who smartly broke the stumps before the batter could react. Ashwin couldn’t have imagined a better start to his spell, you would have thought, especially considering the drought of wickets that has plagued his bowling in recent times.
It wasn’t his early success, however, that took everyone by shock. Instead it was his drastically changed bowling action. India’s premier off-spinner has had a tendency to employ different actions in Test and ODI cricket. Here at Fatullah, though, he had opted for a complete makeover. If anything it looked like a taller, heftier version of Sunil Narine was in action donning India colours.
Ashwin might not have managed any trademark Narine doosras, but a few of his deliveries did leave the Bangladeshi right-handers. Just for the record, he was also operating with full sleeves on.
The change in action had come out of nowhere. There were no hints of it in the nets during India’s practice session on the eve of their Asia Cup opener. In fact, Ashwin hardly bowled and seemed more keen on working on his batting skills. Replicating Narine in a bid to get back to wicket-taking ways might come across as a desperate move. But the desperation is understandable. It was also an indication of the 27-year-old’s muddled state of mind.
From being his country’s lead spin exponent, Ashwin’s stocks have dipped rapidly over the last couple of months. While he’s already lost his place in the Test XI to Ravindra Jadeja, his ODI returns in South Africa and New Zealand were nothing short of disastrous — two wickets put together in eight matches at an average of 198 apiece.
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Ashwin’s long-time coach Sunil Subramaniam for one had seen it coming. He had made his apprehensions regarding his ward’s fast dipping fortunes public following the ODI series in New Zealand.
“He has lost his way a bit. But this is a technical thing. Perhaps, the team thinks he is a sorted-out guy and someone who can handle himself. They keep overstating that fact that he will take care of himself. But that’s not how spin bowling works,” Subramaniam had said.
On Wednesday, Subramaniam is likely to have been one of the many to have cringed at Ashwin’s latest delivery style, more so after he had only last month pointed out the deficiencies that had crept into the Tamil Nadu offie’s original bowling action. “There is no body in his action. He is just bowling from his hands. How can you expect to take wickets,” Subramaniam had lamented.
Though he conceded only two boundaries — a six and a four — against Bangladesh, he rarely had the likes of Mushfiqur Rahim in any discomfort. Even his altered style of delivery didn’t see him flighting the ball more and hitting a fuller length like his coach would have liked him to. Despite the encouraging start, he eventually ended up with the not-so-impressive figures of 1/50 in his 10 overs.