Updated: January 23, 2021 11:26:39 am
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin spoke to India’s fielding coach R Sridhar in a two-part chat show called ‘Kangaroo Bhoomi’ on his YouTube channel, covering the first three Tests in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Snatches of conversation from the dressing room, why the team was given a day off after 36 all out in the pink-ball Test in Adelaide and Shardul Thakur not conveying a crucial message from Shastri to Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari during their rearguard effort at Sydney were part of the frank yet light-hearted discussion between the bowler and fielding coach.
ADELAIDE, 1ST TEST
Shastri on floor after dropped catch
Ravichandran Ashwin: We dropped some 715 catches in that game, your thoughts as fielding coach?!
R Sridhar: I thought I would lose my job after that game [smiles]. Before that, in the onedayers we had dropped some 363 catches! They were 111 for 7 (Australia’s first innings at Adelaide). We dropped two catches. I was so nervous, the heart was beating so loudly! . Tim Paine was dropped in the deep by one of our better fielders. I was wondering how will I show my face to the head coach (Ravi Shastri). I turned towards him, but the head coach was not even in his chair!. I looked down and he was literally lying on the floor ‘Arre yaar’ he shouted in utter disappointment. It was one of the scenes of the Test match for me inside the coaches’ box.
Slap on cheek, hand on back and sugar pills
Ashwin: As coaches how do you get the team to bounce back?
Sridhar: First of all when emotions are running high we don’t react. You make bad decisions when emotions are running high. If we want to tell a player something we run it by each other to see if we are communicating properly. There is a filtration process among the four of us (bowling coach Bharat Arun, batting coach Vikram Rathore, Shastri). That is how we decide what dose to give to a particular player. Each player responds differently. For one you put a hand on the back, one you give a slap on the cheek [smiles as Ashwin places his hand on his cheek]. A lot of times you have to give sugar pills also (sugar-coated firing).
‘Aahs’ and ‘oohs’… told Pant doesn’t sound good.
Ashwin: Team was out for 36 in Adelaide and was trolled.
Sridhar: Overnight we were 9 for 1. (Rishabh) Pant who was the reserve wanted to practice wicket-keeping so I said ‘ok’. The match was to start at 2:30 pm so we said ‘bye’ to Mayank Agarwal and went to the nets. In 10 minutes we could hear sounds like ‘aahs’ and ‘oohs’. We didn’t know what was happening. Then we started hearing sounds for every ball. So I told Rishabh, ‘this doesn’t sound good, Australian crowd is making lots of noise’ let us go and see. He said ‘yes let’s go’. We were like ‘what happened’… Ashwin and Vihari are batting. It has been just 20 minutes right?!
Day-off after 36 all out.
Ashwin: Adelaide Alapparaigal (Adelaide Shenanigans) is over. Mission Melbourne began in Adelaide only. Virat Kohli was leaving like in these college farewells. We were like ‘even you are leaving? Please don’t go.[laughs].
Sridhar: On the day we were bowled out for 36, Virat Kohli messaged me asking ‘what are you doing? I was like huh why is he was messaging at that time of the night! It was 12:30 am. Head coach, Arun sir, Vikram sir, all of us were sitting together. Kohli said ‘I will also come’
Ravi Shastri made a point in that chat. ‘’This 36, wear it like a badge. This 36, is what will make this team great’ [mimics Shastri’s boisterous tone!] We were a bit confused at that time. (laughs) Virat was there and Ajinkya joined the next morning, and we had a very good discussion. When a team is out for 36, usually a team strengthens its batting. But Shastri, Virat and Ajinkya decided to strengthen the bowling. Virat Kohli was replaced by Ravindra Jadeja. It was a masterstroke.
Ashwin: What was the thought process behind canceling practice (day after 36 all out)?
Sridhar: It was Arun sir’s idea. He felt if the boys practiced, it will be out of frustration and they will tend to overthink and over-analyze which is not good for their minds. Unnecessarily it will create mental strain. So it was decided to give a complete off. We had dinner that night and had a few games and got the boys together.
Dumb charades and laughter
Ashwin: We played dumb charades with cricket player names.
Sridhar: Bollywood movies, Hollywood movies and cricket player names (for dumb charades). Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Gujarati movie names were not allowed. Even Ravi Shastri had not heard of some of the names of the cricketers Ashwin came up with.
Ashwin: The highlight of the team event was Ravi Shastri… he enacted a player’s name, which made the entire team burst out in laughter. Finally, everybody was in good spirits, high energy, and singing songs when we left. We had karaoke, all this happened in Adelaide.
MELBOURNE, 2ND TEST
‘ASSHHH, get the ball in the first 10 overs’
Ashwin: In Melbourne Tim Paine wins the toss. The history of Test cricket over the last 10 years suggests that teams winning the toss and batting first tend to win overseas Tests. Paine said: ‘We will bat the first mate’. Ravi Shastri came into the dressing room and boomed, ASSHHHH’, ‘get the ball in the first 10 overs’. I was just wearing my pants. I thought to myself ‘in Melbourne he wants me to bowl in the first 10 overs’. (Ashwin imitating Shastri) ‘It might be damp, it might spin, I have told Jinks (Rahane)’. Bumrah bowled a good spell. Jinks then gave me the ball and the first ball I bowled, it spun a lot and bounced as well. I was like wow.
Sridhar: My first thought when I saw you bowl and the ball spinning was ‘how is Rishabh Pant going to keep against you on this wicket?’ [smiles] He was under pressure playing his first match of the tour.
SYDNEY, 3RD TEST
Which team is tense when Pant is batting
Ashwin: What a knock from Pant. When Pant is batting we are also worried, the opponents are also worried.
Sridhar: Like Ravi Shastri said when Rishabh Pant is batting everybody gets a heart attack. I have a question: When Rishabh is batting who gets more tensed? Opponents or his own team? He defended 27 of his first 35 balls. After that, he clearly exploited their weakness. Or maybe he created that weakness. With his unorthodoxy, the area where he hits. That is New India.
Ashwin: Be it New India or Old India, he is stepping out and smashing over mid-on against the turn for fun.
‘Shabash’ said 249 times
Sridhar: When you and Vihari were batting we used the word Shabhash 249 times! (smiles).. As a ball was bowled, Shastri would lean towards the edge of the chair and go ‘Shabash Ash!’ Pant had put them on the backfoot, Puji (Pujara) had played an outstanding knock. Thoughts were can we somehow draw this Test match? Ravi Shastri got annoyed with Vihari’s injury. ‘How can he tear his hamstring by running just a single? Why? How? (smiles).
Ashwin: There was a discussion then as well. Do you remember? I was padded up and standing continuously from the morning due to my back pain. And suddenly a discussion. Chaos everywhere. Shall we send Jadeja? ‘I am standing from morning? Am I going next or what? I thought to myself. Jadeja had an injection and he was wearing his gloves. Shastri came and said, Ash, you go!
Ashwin: One thing I have to say, you can’t play Pat Cummins without getting hit. He gets it to bounce from a good length. I don’t know how he does that, it is unbelievable.
Sridhar: We had two worries. One will he (Cummins) get you out and will he injure you. If you were injured, myself or Ravi Shastri would have played the next game.
The message Shardul never conveyed
Sridhar: Ravi Shastri calls Shardul and tells him (to give a message to Ashwin and Vihari) that Ashwin should take care of this end (Lyon) and Vihari should bat from the other end (pacers). ‘Ashwin is the best batsman against Nathan Lyon in this entire team’, Shastri said. ‘Vihari is managing Starc and Cummins very well and getting under the bouncers. So ask them to continue’.
Ashwin: We are oblivious to it… Thakur comes running in and he is panting. I tell him just tell me what is the message. Shardul after a while says: ‘they told me many things in the dressing room, I am not going to say any of it. You guys are already doing a great job. So please continue. ‘I told him, Is this the message? Why did you come all this way for this?! (smiles) After the match, he tells me what the message was (laughs)
Sridhar: And we were sitting there thinking he had conveyed the message to you guys!
Moment when Aussies lost it
Ashwin: When Paine started banter or sledging, you can call it whatever you want, myself and Vihari felt that was it, ‘they have lost it’.
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