Prolonged injuries, lack of support and backing during the period between 2018-2020 forced India’s star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to contemplate retirement.
In an interview with ESPNCricinfo, Ashwin revealed that it was one of the most difficult times for him as a cricketer. The first phase, he said, was right after the England series in 2018, followed by abdomen tear in Australia later that year after the Adelaide Test.
“Between 2018 and 2020, I contemplated giving up the sport at various points. I thought, ‘I have put in a lot of effort, but it is not coming through.’ The harder I tried, the farther it felt. Especially with athletic pubalgia and the patellar tendonitis – I used to bowl six balls and then I used to be gasping for breath. And there would be pain all over the place. So you needed to make adjustments. When the knee pain got excruciating, the next ball I would probably jump less. When I jumped less, obviously the force needs to be produced through the core and the back and the shoulders, so the pubalgia would act up. So the third ball I would be extra side-on to try to use the hips. By the time I was done with six balls, I would be like, ‘I need a break here.'”
Ashwin, however, said that it was not just the injuries and their consequential exhaustion that led him to consider retirement but also how those around him were not sensitive enough to his injuries.
“I felt like a lot of people were backed, why not me? I have done no less. I have won a lot of games for the team, and I am not feeling backed,” he said. “I don’t usually look for help, that somebody needs to back me, that somebody needs to cushion me or give me empathy. I felt I was not being able to be excellent and felt I needed a shoulder to lean on. It was not happening. I thought maybe I should try to find something else and be excellent at that.”
The 35-year-old Ashwin admitted that he felt ‘crushed’ after the then India head coach Ravi Shastri termed Kuldeep Yadav India’s no.1 overseas spinner following the latter’s five-for in Sydney in 2019.
While the match ended in a draw, India clinched a historic Test series win Down Under. Following the triumph, Shastri proclaimed that ‘there is a time for everyone (referring to Ashwin’s fitness and injury issues). But now Kuldeep is our frontline number one overseas spinner.’
While he was happy for his teammate and the fact that India won the series, Ashwin felt like he was being thrown under the bus.
“I hold Ravi bhai in high esteem. We all do. And I understand we all can say things and then retract them. In that moment, though, I felt crushed. Absolutely crushed. We all talk about how important it is to enjoy your team-mates’ success. And I was happy for Kuldeep. I have not been able to get a five-for but he has a five-for in Australia. I know how big it is. Even when I have bowled well [at other times], I haven’t ended up with a five-for. So I am genuinely happy for him. And it’s an extremely happy occasion, to win in Australia,” said Ashwin.
“But if I have to come and partake in his happiness, and the success of the team, I must feel like I belong there. If I feel like I am being thrown under the bus, how am I supposed to get up and come for a party to enjoy the team’s or team-mate’s success? I went back to my room and then I spoke to my wife. And my children were there. So we were able to, you know, shrug it off, and I still made it to the party, because, end of the day, we had won a massive series,” he said.
Ashwin played a key role in Adelaide win during that tour, claiming six wickets in the Test. He, however, lamented that his contribution seemed pretty much forgotten by the time the final Test in Sydney was over.