Cricket Column: Ashwin’s getting a raw deal, left and right

Sports Sunday 08/May/2016 16:49 PM
By: Times News Service
Cricket Column: Ashwin’s getting a raw deal, left and right

FOUR dropped catches, one wasted stumping opportunity and misfielding conceding extra runs — all this inside the first nine overs, transforming Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli into an unfamiliarly sober, silent self as the Rising Pune Supergiants raced to 82 for the loss of one wicket. And then the chase of the 192-run target got off to a lousy start, with just 10 runs on the board at the end of the third over. What happened thereafter was a surreal display of amazing determination of one man who was not even interested in a fair celebration of his second century even as victory was just a matter of hitting four runs off six balls, which was actually a child’s play for the guy who, a couple of overs prior to that, faced the task of scoring 47 runs from 24 balls.
It’s incredible how Kohli pulls off such seemingly impossible run chases, but when we get to hear him post-match we tend to think it’s quite simple and easy to do so on a fairly routine basis. It’s all about “being convinced that you can get the result you want”. That simple. Unfortunately, a lot of times we don’t get convinced about the ability of many others to do that even when the ball finds the middle of their bat a couple times. Chances of them gifting their wickets after a few monstrous hits are higher than them staying right till the last ball to carry their team home.
When Shane Watson followed up his 108m six in the 15th over off the bowling of Rajat Bhatia with a bit more awesome monster — 109m — off the next ball, there was always the fear, or expectation, depending on which side of the loyalty fence we were, of the Australian getting it wrong rather too soon. That’s the pretty visible line that separates Kohli and other batting greats of his time.
After Saturday’s defeat, MS Dhoni’s fortunes in the ninth edition of the IPL look dull, with seven losses and just three wins. Usman Khawaja was impressive in the brief time he was at the crease. RPS raced to 22 in the first two overs, and if Khawaja lasted at least till the 10th, RCB would have been chasing a target in excess of 230. Obviously, Khawaja and Ajinkya Rahane don’t seem to hit it off. He could have been run out a couple of balls before it actually happened, but Khawaja doesn’t have much time at hand to work things out.
What hurts Indian cricket fans more than the uninspiring outing by the Pune franchise is Ravichandran Ashwin’s uninspiring form and, disappointingly, a lack opportunity thrown at him to get his acts together. It’s better if Dhoni keeps Ashwin out of the playing eleven if he thinks the spinner is not his man for the moment, but after picking Ashwin up, denying him his share of opportunity is unfair. It doesn’t help the interest of Indian cricket to leave the strike bowler to rot.
The argument that Ashwin is getting fewer overs because the opportunities — a left-right combination—to toss the ball to him were fewer is ridiculous. Is Ashwin good only for such situations? The fact is that even the best right-handed batsmen, like AB de Villiers, find Ashwin tough to crack, and even a right-right combination as awesome as De Villiers and Kohli would treat Ashwin with respect, caution and a bit of self-doubt, all of which could eventually force the batsman into making costly mistakes. That’s what pressure is about, right?
Adam Zampa’s first two overs cost him only 14 runs, he claimed KL Rahul and AB de Villiers in his third, and his final figures — two wickets for 35 runs in four overs — were impressive. Ashwin, on the other hand, was called to bowl his first, and the only, over in the 17th, of course when there was a left-right combination, and that was no time to introduce a bowler who was not in the best of form, still, he conceded just seven runs.
Nothing seems to work in Dhoni’s favour at the moment — is it a matter of bad times or mysterious decisions?
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman