He is clearly the man in the hot seat. With so much talk about spin and the English vulnerability against the turning ball, there’s little doubt Ravichandran Ashwin will be up for a fair bit of examination as he runs in to bowl in the first Test at Ahmedabad. With 49 wickets from eight Tests so far in his career, he has done enough to earn the faith of the masses. This conversation with Boria Majumdar is evidence that he is going the extra yard to make sure India doesn’t fall short in what has been labelled the ‘payback’ series.
Q. You have been telling me for some time now that, come the Ahmedabad Test, you will have something new up your sleeve. Is it a new mystery ball then?
A: I don’t have a name for it yet, but yes, I have been practising it for some time now and hope to use it in this series. It is very similar to the carrom ball but it goes the other way. I am working on fine-tuning it in the next two weeks and will surely use it in the first Test. But, as I said, if you want me to name it for you, I don’t have a name for it yet.
Q. Let’s call it the Ashwin ball for the moment. How does it differ from the carrom ball?
A: It is bowled with the same grip but will go the other way. I have been practising it for a couple of months now. It is similar to the carrom ball yet very different from it.
Q: There is so much talk about spin being the real weapon against the English. How do you see all this talk? Do you feel the pressure?
A: No, I don’t. Responsibility is something I have always enjoyed. It is an honour to be the premier spinner in the Indian team and I will do all I can to justify the faith being shown in me. I am aware that the English are a good side, but there is little doubt that they are feeling the heat. All this talk about spin is proof they are under the cosh and the first two Tests are extremely crucial. It is important we draw first blood and show patience in the first two games. I am up for the challenge for sure.
Q: How are you getting ready? Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the next two weeks leading up to the Test match?
A: I am training very hard and putting in my best to be in top physical and mental shape. It is very important at the start of an important tour and that’s what I have been doing since returning from South Africa. Things are looking particularly good at the moment and like everyone else I am very keen to go out there and deliver for the team.
Q: You have emphasised that you want to be recognised as an all-rounder. Are you honing your batting skills also?
A: Of course yes. Late order runs will be very important in this series, for the key is to put a big score on the board and put the opposition under pressure. I am comfortable batting with the tail and want to make a serious contribution with the bat. I have a Test hundred against my name and am looking forward to doing a lot more with the bat for India, starting with this tour.
Q: What do you have to say about the Indian tactics of not giving much away in the first warm-up match against India A. Not having a single specialist spinner in the side has created quite a furore in England.
A: I think it is the right thing to do. This is international cricket and we Indians don’t complain when we are touring. We are often at the receiving end in England and Australia and I see no reason why we shouldn’t use our home advantage. I think we are very much within our right to doing what we are and all this talk is evidence that the English are under the cosh even before the tour starts. A quality side should be up to facing all sorts of challenges and shouldn’t start to complain even before the tour has begun.