India off-spinner Ravi Ashwin says bowling leg-spin is already proving to be a lot more effective than his regular bowling style as he has started to get wickets even off ordinary deliveries.
Ashwin, one of the finest off-spinners produced by India with 311 scalps from 57 Tests, has added another dimension to his bowling – leg spin – in an attempt to reinvent his game and regain his spot in the limited-overs side which is now occupied by wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
He worked on the mysterious art for two seasons before becoming confident enough of trying it out in a competitive match. That was the Indian domestic 50-over competition Vijay Hazare Trophy earlier this month. He finished with nine wickets from five one-day games for his state side Tamil Nadu using variations of leg spin.
“The one thing I have realised is I have got a wicket out of a full toss and short ball out of the nine wickets I got in Vijay Hazare (tournament). There is the advantage of bowling leg-break. I bowl a beauty of a leg-break and they get beaten and the next ball is a short ball and they get out,” Ashwin told Sport360 at the GenNext Kings’ Cricket Academy at Kings’ School Al Barsha.
“I have a big leg-break, I have a googly and a flipper. I don’t think I need more. I am 100 per cent match ready with it. Execution might go wrong here or there. Even with my off break with 10, 11 years of international experience, I bowl the odd loose balls. It’s bound to happen. Leg-breaks are bound to produce loose balls.”
What makes Ashwin confident about his leg-spin skills is the fact that he has picked up wickets in a 50-over tournament against Indian batsmen. Nine wickets across five matches has shown Ashwin he is on the right track.
“It has been a very challenging ride. I am enjoying the fruits of what’s coming out. Playing in a premier one-day tournament (Vijay Hazare trophy) and delivering with the new skill gives me a lot of confidence. The Indian domestic batsmen are very good players of spin and I managed to get wickets against them so that’s a positive sign,” the 31-year-old added after a training sessions with budding cricketers in Dubai.
While Ashwin the leg-spinner is doing just fine, there are some concerns over what a radically different action could do to his main trade – off-spin bowling in Test cricket – that he has fine-tuned over a decade. But Ashwin says it’s all flowing smoothly.
“This is an attempt I have made. I went to South Africa and I just bowled just off break. It seemed just fine. I am assuming it will stay fine. These are improvements and innovations people need to make. The game throws the challenges, all you need to do is embrace it and try and see if you can match up to it. At least I know that when I hang my boots, I know I have made an attempt.”
Aggressive. Brash. Ill-disciplined.
When Virat Kohli started his international career, these words were used to describe the mercurial Delhi batsman.
A spell outside the team and a period of introspection saw Kohli reinvent his game, attain an exemplary level of fitness and then establish himself as not only one of the best batsmen of this generation but also the undisputed leader of the Indian team across all formats.
Kohli first rose to prominence during a domestic Ranji Trophy match playing for his state Delhi against Karnataka in 2006, his debut season.
On the third day’s play, Kohli hit 90 to save the match.
The astonishing part of the innings was the fact he played despite losing his father the night before.
Two seasons later, he led India to the Under-19 world title alongside future internationals Ravindra Jadeja and Manish Pandey.
After he was signed by Royal Challengers Bangalore for the inaugural Indian Premier League season in 2008, Kohli’s profile reached the stratosphere.
But after his ODI debut in the same year, Kohli found himself out of the team.
Kohli admits his “conduct off the field” was a possible reason.
Kohli doubled down in the domestic scene and forced his way back into the ODI eleven, hitting his first century against Sri Lanka at the end of 2009.
He had to wait until 2011 to make his Test debut, after lifting the 50-over World Cup a few months before.
A disastrous tour by India of Australia in 2012 where the Indians lost 4-0 brought personal redemption as Kohli hit 116 in Adelaide.
On that same tour, during an ODI tri-series, Kohli hit an 86-ball 133 to help India chase down 321 inside 37 overs that underpinned his credentials as a master of chases.
Not content with being just a good batsman, Kohli revamped his game after an ordinary 2012 IPL.
Out went late night parties and an unregulated lifestyle off the field and in came discipline with fitness at the front and centre of Kohli’s cricket.
The other turning point in his career came in 2014 when he was named Test captain and scored centuries in both innings at Adelaide against the Aussies.
His Test batting flourished under the weight of captaincy; six double centuries as skipper is already a record in Tests.
So proud of the whole unit. 🙏👍 What a series win. Jai Hind! 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/C2lgzmak7k— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) February 16, 2018
But the most captivating aspect of Kohli’s batting is his record in ODIs, and especially while chasing.
Combining the prolific run-scoring of Sachin Tendulkar with the finishing touch of Aussie legend Michael Bevan, Kohli has become one of the greatest ODI players off all time.
He is second on the all-time list of centurions behind Sachin Tendulkar (49) despite having played less than half the number of matches.
By the time Kohli finishes his career, he is almost certain to become the most accomplished limited overs batsman in history.
Kohli has had his fair share of lows with the bat as well.
During the 2014 England tour, he managed 134 runs in five Tests with his technique outside the off stump getting exposed.
One of the best ODI innings I have seen in the recent past. Congratulations, @imVkohli! Excellent work by #TeamIndia to win an ODI series for the first time in South Africa. Way to go, boys✌️✌️ #SAvIND 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/IjAlV2YpHp— Suresh Raina (@ImRaina) February 16, 2018
Reworking his game outside the off stump with the help of Sachin Tendulkar, Kohli took his game to the next level.
He now has Test tons in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and ODI centuries in every nation he has toured.
Kohli has set numerous batting and leadership records for India, the foremost of them being leading the team to nine successive Test series wins and a first ever ODI series success in South Africa.
His career might not have started on the best note but by the time he approaches the end, dedicated, uncompromising and successful are most likely to be the words used to describe one of the finest players produced by India.
India captain Virat Kohli capped a remarkable ODI series against South Africa by smashing his 35th ODI century, becoming the fastest to 17,000 international runs and taking his 100th ODI catch as India sealed a comprehensive 5-1 series win in Port Elizabeth.
Chasing 204 for victory, India were never in trouble as captain Kohli again led the way with a sublime 129 of 96 deliveries as the visitors reached the target in 32.1 overs with eight wickets in hand.
Kohli hit 19 boundaries and two sixes during his knock and was given good support by Ajinkya Rahane who remained not out on 34.
It was another record-breaking day for Kohli in his 200th ODI innings as he also completed 500 runs in the series and 800 runs on the South African tour. Kohli thus became the first cricketer to score 500 runs in bilateral ODI series in history.
Kohli reached a major milestone as he completed 17,000 international runs in 363 innings, breaking South African Hashim Amla’s record of 381 innings.
The South Africans got the wicket of Rohit Sharma, centurion in the previous game, for 15 and fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan for 18 on Friday. But Kohli put his foot down and batted South Africa out of the match on a pitch that was far from conducive for strokeplay.
Earlier, pacer Shardul Thakur took advantage of his only start of the series as India maintained their dominance over South Africa.
Thakur took 4-52 as South Africa were bowled out for 204 at SuperSport Park.
Despite India holding a series-winning 4-1 lead, Thakur was the only change to a winning combination, replacing Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The Mumbai fast bowler, in only his third international appearance, dismissed both South African openers – Amla and Aiden Markram – inside the first ten overs.
This is Virat Kohli's 30th century in ODIs in a winning cause. Only Sachin Tendulkar (33) has more. Kohli has not played even half of the matches Tendulkar played. #RSAvInd— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) February 16, 2018
He followed up with the wicket of Farhaan Behardien in the middle overs before finishing the innings by catching Andile Phehlukwayo off his own bowling.
Khaya Zondo, like Thakur playing in his third international match, top-scored for South Africa with 54 off 74 balls. It was only the fourth score of 50 or more for the hosts in a series in which their top batsmen have failed to fire.
Wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal took their wicket tallies for the series to 17 and 16 respectively, although Yadav took only one wicket and Chahal claimed two on Friday.
Chahal claimed the key wicket of AB de Villiers, bowling South Africa’s star batsman for 30 with a flipper when De Villiers shaped to cut.