Ashwin’s three-wicket haul came in seven deliveries and went a long way to justify his late inclusion in India’s World Cup squad for the tournament, which begins on October 5.
Washington Sundar’s expression on the ground captured the moment best. Marnus Labuschagne had perhaps his most embarrassing moment of his career with the bat in the middle, being completely outwitted by a pearler from R Ashwin to lose the stumps, and was flustered on the bat as Sundar quickly glanced at the television to catch it. repetition. The look said, “What was that? What bothered him that Marnus had been cleaned out in such a spectacular fashion?
Fortunately, there was a rotating slow-motion camera to frame the release in all its glory. It was the reverse carrom that Ashwin had been working on assiduously for several years after finding that his regular carrom ball, which ripped the ball away from right-handers, was played to the end with the expected spin. Right-handed batsmen need only notice the release with a flick of the finger and start shaping to angle the bat for the shutoff. So Ashwin had to come up with something else.
He started changing. His carromball used to swing from his forehand; now with this reversal he began to spin the ball backwards and undercut it as well, sliding his finger under the seam to straighten the ball. “It’s a backflipper that gives me a shift from left-handed to right-handed. I’m also a bit under the seam to straighten up at times,” he once told Sky Sports. Poor Labuschagne got a live demo.
Before we zoom in on Labuschagne’s horror-stricken face, Ashwin has one-upped the other: he runs. He started a slightly angular run-up that allowed him to get into the crease with little hop, even as he began to play with the way he handles the ball — basically how he extends his wrist before release. Ever the wise bowler, the wrist tap is extremely important to his bowling: it changes the loop, the range of spin or its direction from the wrist tap. “I’ve been working on the action, getting more hip and camouflaging [the wrist] well; not easy to detect,” were his words.
To be fair to Labuschagne, he didn’t try to play to the end. Was it because he saw that it was no ordinary karam, or because he hadn’t seen the release at all? Be that as it may, the end result was spectacular. He was pushing in the line and the ball drifting into touch straightened up, just as Ashwin said it would, and tapped the stumps. Sundar was probably inspired by the replays.
The bigger ongoing battle around Labuschagne was Ashwin vs David Warner. Normally OTTs don’t really do a great job with highlights but this one on JioCinema was packaged quite neatly. It is tagged ‘Ashwin outwits Righty Warner’ and captures all the mini moments. As Warner switched to bat immediately after Pat Cummins ran onto the field with the news; how he then swept a four as a right-handed batsman and caused much laughter in the Australian camp; and then the final strike from Ashwin.
This was a normal carrom, but Warner tried to reverse it – that is, play as a left-hander who is after a change of position – but it spun and trapped him on the pad. Strangely Warner didn’t go for DRS as he had an under edge but when he swung the bat he was sprawled on the ground and maybe he didn’t feel it. He only consulted his partner for lbw and dragged himself back.
A few balls later came another dreamy backspinning reverse carom that dismissed Josh Inglis. This drift is worth watching on a loop. The undercut backspinning is released again and the ball curves to the right-hander from outside off to land on middle and off and then straightens. It was also nicely full and that length beat the intended movement to nail Inglis lbw.
Ashwin’s art is not static. They keep changing colors. In Tests, he can target batsmen’s hands, their intended shots, and lure them into areas they can’t get their hands out of in time. Ashwin’s art lies in entangling batsmen in meanders from which they cannot extricate themselves in time. With the cue ball, he often slips a pre-designed ball like a carrom, but with loaded variations, even if they see what’s going on, they may be too dazed to get out of jail in time. That a pitcher who obviously thinks so much about his craft is sometimes mocked for that thinking; and he talked about it.
“A lot of people sold me and built me up… (as) a thinking person. A person who knows they only get two games is going to be traumatized and overthinking because it’s my job… It (the overthinker sticker) was made to work against me, right? And as I said, there have been statements that people have made all the time when leadership is an issue that has come my way, there have been people… out there saying (that) my name is not the first name on the list when India is on tour in abroad” said Ashwin.
He admitted that the frequent suspensions and negative perceptions about him “traumatized” him. “I’m a lot cooler than I used to be. Much more relaxed than I’ve ever been. As I sit here today, I realize how much it took a toll on me mentally to the point where I was traumatized. But I’m very happy that I got through it and discovered a new me,” he told this newspaper.