Former England batsman Mark Butcher said R Ashwin is an “unbelievably tricky” bowler to face as an opponent while heaping praise on the off-spinners consistency and control over his variations. Butcher went on to call Ashwin a “professor of the game” as the India star went on to pick yet another 5-wicket haul, his 29th in Test cricket on Day 2 of the 2nd Test in Chennai.
R Ashwin was on song on a spinner-friendly pitch at Chepauk as he brought out his wide range of deliveries to outfox the England batsmen. Ashwin varied his pace and lengths wonderfully well as he finished with figures of 43/5 in 23.5 overs, ably supported by debutant Axar Patel who picked 2 wickets, including the crucial wicket of England captain Joe Root for 6 on Sunday.
Ashwin’s delivery to dismiss all-rounder Ben Stokes was one of the highlights of India’s dominant performance on Day 2 as England were skittled out for 134 while responding to India’s first innings total of 329. Ashwin beat Stokes in the air as he got the ball to spin away from the middle-stump to knock the top of off-stump. Stokes was visibly frustrated as he kept slamming the bat on the ground as he made his way back to the hut after being outthought by Ashwin.
Speaking to Star Sports, Mark Butcher said Ashwin can bowl 5 or 6 different types of deliveries while managing to land the ball at the same spot on the pitch and the control over his variations makes him a difficult customer to deal with.
“I mean England are a much better team playing in the sub-continent nowadays than perhaps they were20 years ago. They tend to play spin very well. So if you are going to be knocking them over for less than 200, you need to have a special bowler,” Butcher said.
“Ashwin is incredible, he is a professor of the game. I know he loves to study opposition batsmen, he is forever working out different angles, different degrees of turn, and different degrees of flight.
“Fair enough, you have a pitch that is taking turn and conditions that suit you but he is then able to work out ‘how do I get the ball from my hand in the most dangerous spot in 3 or more different ways. I will go a little bit flatter, a little bit quicker and a little bit slower’.
“He has 5 or 6 different ways to get the same ball to land in the same place. That makes him unbelievably tricky. Add to that, sort of game awareness, a bit of a hoo-doo he has over somebody like Ben Stokes,” Butcher said.
We expect Ashwin to take 5-wicket hauls very regularly: Gambhir
Meanwhile, former India batsman Gautam Gambhir said Ashwin has become so consistent that a 5-wicket haul is expected of the off-spinner almost every time he steps on the field. Gambhir also lauded Ashwin’s performances in Australia earlier this year, saying the spell he bowled to Steve Smith in Melbourne is one of the most spectacular bowling periods by a spinner in recent times.
Ashwin became the first bowler to pick up 200 dismissals of left-handers when he castled Stuart Broad on Day 2 of the 2nd Test. He also equalled Glenn McGrath’s tally of 29 5-wicket hauls in Test matches.
“Ashwin again, world-class and very accurate, didn’t give anything away. It is expected of him because now people expect him to take fifers on a very regular basis,” Gambhir said.
“Look at what he did against Steve Smith. You can take about what he has done in Indian conditions or pitches like what we are watching right now but his spell against Smith in Melbourne was probably the best any off-spinner has ever bowled in Australia. That wa sone of the best spells bowled by any spinner in any formats across any team.
“Just the quality of bowling he showed was completely world-class. We always expected that once he comes back from Australia, in home conditions he is going to be even more dangerous. He has already got 2 five-wicket hauls in 3 innings in this series.”