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The rise of Ashwin the Batsman

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Ravichandran_Ashwin_Cricket_IndiaRavichandran Ashwin is the No. 1 Test all-rounder in the World at present. Apart from being a match winner with the ball in hand, Ashwin has always been more than handy with the bat. Ever since he made his debut in whites for India, back in 2011, we have witnessed a number of his match-saving and sometimes match-winning contributions down the batting order. India has found his batting prowess extremely useful down their line-up, considering the numerous occasions as he has bailed them out of trouble. With the appointment of Anil Kumble as the Indian Coach, Ashwin has found a new role in the Test team: he has batted at No. 6 and flourished as a proper batsman in the past six months.

 

This has been a fabulous year for Ashwin, both with the ball and the bat. On the one hand, he has taken wickets in Tests like a child gobbling wafers, and on the other he has responsibly played the role of the crucial No. 6 batsman that India had long been searching for.

In 2016, he has made 473 runs at an average of 43.00 from 11 innings, summing up how well he has done in this new role for India. One may say that the couple of centuries that he scored against the West Indies during the Caribbean tour didn’t give any proof of his abilities as a batsman since it came against a weak bowling side. However, one must not forget that both of the centuries came under testing conditions when the Indian top order failed to deliver. And if that wasn’t enough for proof, Ashwin has now proved himself in the ongoing series against England, scoring two fighting half-centuries when India needed them the most.

The innings of 70 that he played at Rajkot helped India get closer to England’s mammoth first innings total of 537. The innings was crucial as India stuttered in the middle of their innings after tons from Vijay and Pujara at the start. When nobody seemed to be good enough to spend some time at the crease, it was Ashwin who showed the resolve to stretch the Indian innings further by biding his time while keeping up a steady flow of runs. His innings of 58 in the first innings of the second Test at Vizag showed once again why he is rated so highly with the bat.

 

Although he has scored four centuries in his career so far, all against the West Indies, it is his innings of 91* against England at Kolkata, during the famous 2012 series which India lost to the visitors 2-1, that I rate as his best innings. The way he dealt with the wrath of the English spin duo of Swann and Panesar was highly commendable as compared to the other Indian top-order batsmen. Although India lost that match, Ashwin’s innings was the first clear indication that he belonged to the category of top-quality batsmen.

Almost two years later, India again suffered a terrible series defeat to England, this time as visitors. Once again Ashwin’s innings of 40 and 46*, on a seaming Old Trafford track, got my attention when India suffered an innings defeat after a batting collapse. Ashwin played all these fighting knocks when he batted as low as No. 9. Despite all this, no one tried him in the middle order for a long time until Kumble did the needful this year.

India has tried almost everyone at that No. 6 position. They have tried Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and many more players while trying to find or forge the lower middle order batsman they needed, but none of them could provide the consistency and reliability needed for that position in the handful of opportunities given to them. It must be said that for a brief period, Rohit Sharma did show some promise at that position, but gradually he became inconsistent and lost the place to injury. The tour of West Indies earlier this year turned out to be the perfect opportunity to test Ashwin in the middle order and the results were fabulous.

Ashwin is already 30 years old, and it looks like he still has around ten years of international cricket left in him. The game of cricket has witnessed many great all-rounders like Sir Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Kapil Dev. By the time Ashwin retires, it is likely his name will glitter in the golden pages of Cricket history along with these legends.

 

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Prasenjit, a techie by profession and Sports writer by passion, hails from the 'City of Joy'-Kolkat...

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