India off-spinner Ravi Ashwin has been waiting for an opportunity to get back into the senior playing XI. Long seen as the best spinner in the country, the 31-year-old is no longer the first-choice bowler in limited-overs cricket. That honour now rests with young wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Ashwin, along with Ravindra Jadeja, might have to wait for the Test matches to come around to wear the India jersey again but the veteran off-spinner has not let the latest developments bog him down.
Ashwin played four county matches for Worcestershire in Division Two in England. There, he picked up 20 wickets and also hit 214 runs. Since he didn’t feature in the short-form matches in Sri Lanka, at home against Australia and won’t against New Zealand as well, Ashwin has a lot more time to work on his fitness and develop new aspects of his game. The 31-year-old is embracing the new challenge and is not planning too far ahead.
“I am still playing cricket, very happy doing it,” Ashwin told Sport360° during the launch of Gen-Next Kings’ Cricket Academy at Kings’ School, Al Barsha, in Dubai.
“I have ventured into new things. I went and played in England, new experiences, new things to learn. Wherever I go, there is a lot of learning for me. I am playing Ranji Trophy (India’s first-class tournament) again after a long time. Getting back into the Tamil Nadu dressing room, I have been enjoying it.”
County spells have generally proven to be beneficial for subcontinent cricketers as they get to play in relative anonymity and be on their own while getting back to the basics. Now, Ashwin just wants to play the game and is not keen on making big statements in the press.
“I bowled a lot of long spells (in England). I had to do things on my own. The wickets didn’t come quickly, you need to take time, plan your dismissals. It’s not one precise thing that I learnt and can say from now onwards you can see it. It makes no sense. I am sure you want that sort of a statement from me. But it’s all about taking everything in, trying to see if what you can learn and get better the next day.
“As far as the upcoming season is concerned, I am not taking anything for granted. I am not looking forward to anything. Why should I look forward to anything? I enjoy playing cricket, be it Tests ODIs or T20s. I am not going to make any big statements as such. If I need to do that, I will call the press myself and give statements. As of now, all you can do is enjoy your cricket rather that give all sorts of interviews,” he added.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) October 19, 2017
India’s rising star, spinner Kuldeep Yadav, believes bowling on concrete has made him battle-ready for any surface that a rival cricket power can lay out for him.
Kuldeep, who claimed a hat-trick in his country’s triumphant one-day series against Australia, has become a household name at 22 and with just two Tests and 11 one-day internationals to his name.
He played a big part in India’s 4-1 win over Australia, but many believe the real test will come in tours of South Africa and England next year.
Ahead of India’s series against New Zealand, starting Sunday, Kuldeep told AFP in an interview that his varied left-arm wrist spin will be a weapon on any track.
“It doesn’t matter to me where I am playing because since my childhood I have bowled on cemented wickets. So if you can turn the ball on concrete then you can spin it anywhere,” Kuldeep said.
“If you have skill, good variation and are beating the batsmen in the air then you can find success anywhere,” added Kuldeep, who hails from the northern city of Kanpur.
Kuldeep started as a pace bowler but at the age of nine he switched to wrist spin at his coach’s insistence.
“I started my career in 2004 as a fast bowler. After practising for a few months my coach advised me to switch to spin.
“I did not like it at the start, but the first ball I bowled was wrist spin and I had no idea what it was. So, he must have thought I have a talent and he worked on it.
“Initially it was tough but when I got down to it, the hard work paid off.”
Kuldeep has made his mark in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition with the Kolkata Knight Riders.
But his rise as a top-class spinner has been instrumental in India becoming top of the world Test and one-day rankings.
The latest addition to India’s rich spin tradition made an instant impact with four wickets in his debut Test against Australia in Dharamsala this year.
He impressed in Sri Lanka in September and then bamboozled Australian batsmen, including star opener David Warner, with his wrist spin, winning many more fans.
“Australia are a good team and compared to other sides always play dominating cricket. Their batsmen don’t allow you to settle and just want to dominate a bowler,” Kuldeep said.
“Australia are a dangerous side because they play freely and put you under pressure. I played in the West Indies and then in Sri Lanka but they don’t play as attacking as the Aussies.”
Kuldeep grew up watching videos of spin legend Shane Warne and still calls the Aussie great his reference point in learning the rare art.
Warne recently compared Kuldeep to Pakistan’s established Test spinner Yasir Shah, saying the Indian can become “the best leg-spinner” if he remains patient.
“It’s great to be compared to a top spinner like Yasir Shah. It’s heartening to see praise coming from my idol. It reassures my belief in my talent,” said Kuldeep.
“It makes me happy that he (Warne) backs me and I feel there is some more talent in me.”
Kuldeep has formed a partnership with leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and they are providing competition for veterans Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
“You cannot replace anyone. Ashwin and Jaddu bhai are the number one and number two spinners of India and I will always look up to learn from them,” Kuldeep said of his seniors.
“They have done extremely well in Test, ODI and T20 cricket. We are very young and have to play much more cricket to even get close to them,” he added.
Kuldeep insisted that individual success comes out of the team’s hard work and praised skipper Virat Kohli for nurturing young talent.
“It has been a team effort and especially the way Virat Kohli has led the team and backed us youngsters. It has made all the difference and been the biggest factor for our success,” he said.
“I don’t plan much. I just think that every game is important and the more I keep performing, the better my chances of enjoying a long run with team India.”
Veteran India pacer Ashish Nehra is set to call time on his international career after the first T20I against New Zealand on November 1.
Nehra will make his final bow on his home ground at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi.
A senior source at the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) has revealed to the PTI (Press Trust of India) that the 38-year-old bowler has intimidated his decision to retire to team skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri.
“Yes, Ashish has told both Ravi and Virat that he does not want to continue beyond November 1 when India plays New Zealand at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Obviously, there is some element of surprise. One thought that he would like to continue till the home season against Sri Lanka. But he feels, it’s the right time to move on,” the senior official told PTI on Wednesday.
It is understood that Nehra’s retirement is from all forms of cricket and he will not take part in the next edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The Delhi-born pacer made his debut for India in 1999 and has since gone on to play 17 Tests, 120 ODIs and 26 T20Is for his country.
Overall, Nehra has 44 Test wickets, 157 ODI wickets and 34 scalps in T20Is. He is best remembered for his devastating spell of 6-23 against England in an ICC World Cup 2003 clash at Durban.
He was a member of the World Cup winning India side of 2011 where he put in a match winning performance against Pakistan in the semi-finals.
The lanky pacer had been named in India’s squad for the three match T20I series against Australia but so far has not featured in the first two games.