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R Ashwin steps down the track to pitch critics

Off-spinner questions who defines a good surface; says England players didn't complain.

R Ashwin reacts on completing 400 Test wickets, on the second day of the 3rd cricket test match between India and England (Source: PTI)

What makes a good pitch? The convention says a surface that assists seamers in the opening morning followed by assistance for batsmen before spinners coming into the game from the fourth day onwards. Ravichandran Ashwin just couldn’t care less about those who cried foul over the Motera pitch for the third Test, which ended within two days.

At a press conference on Saturday, the off-spinner was asked by a member of the British media if the Motera pitch was good for Test cricket.

The 34-year-old offie shot back. “I have a question back. What is a good cricket surface? Who defines it?” The reply was, ‘good contest between bat and ball’.

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Ashwin continued. “Yes, of course. The bowler wants to win the game. The batsman needs to bat well to get runs. There’s absolutely no question about it. What makes a good surface? Who defines this? Seam on the first day and then bat well and then spin on the last two days? Come on! Who makes all these rules, we need to get over it and not talk about whatever picture you want to paint.”

Ashwin also pointed out that the England team didn’t complain after the loss at Motera.

“If you’re asking whether it was a good Test surface, I don’t see any of the players coming from England having an issue with the surface. They want to improve; they look like they want to have a contest. Is it the players and the people who are reporting back that want their players to not compete and complain about the pitches? Because we have never done that on any of the tours.”

The off-spinner highlighted that matches get over quickly outside India too. Ashwin spoke about how India’s two Tests in New Zealand in 2020 took just five days in total to complete. “The talk around the surface is getting out of hand. Why would you talk about the surface and sell that to us time in and time out? There have been instances when we have gone to New Zealand, both (Tests) got over within five days. Total five days. Nobody noted it.”

Ashwin was then asked if he was expecting a similar surface for the fourth and final Test.

“It depends on what you are hoping for. We hope for a good cricket match,” pat came the reply.
On Friday, a day after India had wrapped up the third Test against England inside two days, he put out a series of tweets. One of those read: “Products are sold using various marketing strategies and that’s an accepted practice! We now live in an era where ideas are also being sold to us and it’s a classic example of “outbound marketing”, however I would like to add that buying ideas being sold to us is like telling us”.

The tweets created a social media storm because of its cryptic nature. In reality, Ashwin’s tweets were aimed at those who criticised the Motera wicket after India’s 10-wicket win.

“I am really surprised because I went through my timeline and had a lot co-tweets and re-tweets. If people didn’t understand I do not know what on earth they were doing. It’s very simple, I have always wanted to talk about this at some stage and I thought it was very pertinent,” the off-spinner, who reached 400 Test wickets in Ahmedabad, said at the press conference.

‘Conditioning’ of the narratives, is what Ashwin tried to address through his tweets. The Motera pitch, where the spinners collected 28 out of 30 wickets, took the centre-stage during and after the match.

Some former England captains, including Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss lambasted the 22 yards, but Kevin Pietersen put it down to the technique of the England batsmen, while Geoffrey Boycott felt India were the better team.

A certain narrative, the pitch was the king, rather than good bowling or bad batting from both sides, was put across, Ashwin felt.

“With respect to thoughts being put across and planted to people is something that is extremely hilarious and heinous to a point where you have a thought process and you want everyone to follow that and think that. With thoughts what happens is, you condition people to believing a certain way.

You watch a match, you watch India win a game… You don’t want people to go back home and say ‘India’s not winning the game and the pitch that’s winning the game’. That’s what I don’t want people to do. I know anyway that’s going to come up,” Ashwin said.

Not confronting Yuvraj

Some former India players, too, aimed a dig at the surface. After the match, Yuvraj Singh posted a tweet that said: “finished in 2 days Not sure if that’s good for test cricket! If @anilkumble1074 and @harbhajan_singh bowled on these kind of wickets they would be sitting on a thousand and 800?”

Ashwin said his tweets didn’t target any individual. “The reason behind my tweets were definitely not in context to anybody in particular. When I read Yuvi pa’s tweet, I actually didn’t get affected at all, because I didn’t find that he was telling us anything, trying to suggest anything. It just felt like a really plain tweet, saying ‘we were good and…’ For me, the state of mind I am in, I didn’t find it anything wrong or agenda-driven or anything like that. I know Yuvi pa for a long time and I have the utmost respect for him.”

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