India vs England | Ashwin primed to surpass himself

Ashwin seeks ‘another gear’ in his pursuit of improvement after scaling Mt. 400

“One game at a time.”

“I don’t look too far ahead.”

These are the cliches associated with modern-day India cricketers, whenever they are asked about their personal targets. But R. Ashwin is different. Not just on the pitch but off it as well.

It’s his artistry with the red cherry that makes him stand out on the field of play whenever he wears India’s jersey.

Perhaps it’s the confidence he derives from his on-field exploits that leads to the eloquent engineer from Chennai talking nonchalantly about his personal targets.

No wonder then that after becoming only the fourth Indian — and the second-quickest in the world in terms of Test appearances — to scale Mt. 400 during the two-day win over England in the third Test, Ashwin had no qualms saying “I won’t be surprised if I surprise myself in the future as well”.

One of Ashwin’s strengths is his ability to assess the conditions and bowl accordingly. It was evident during the pink-ball Test at Motera, where he and left-arm spinner Axar Patel ran through England’s hapless batsmen twice in less than two days. Realising that only the odd ball was turning viciously, he convinced Axar to bowl wicket-to-wicket lines and it reaped huge dividends.

Add to that his mastery of subtle variations, and Ashwin becomes virtually unplayable in Asia. Ollie Pope, the England youngster, is unlikely to forget how he was flummoxed by Ashwin from either side of the umpire in both the innings during the third Test.

Having joined the 400-club at 34, an age when spinners are conventionally supposed to be at their peak, it was pertinent to ask the man himself whether he feels that he is bowling at his best right now.

“This question has been asked quite a few times in my career. In 2015-16 people were asking me the same thing when I went through that lovely phase in ’15-16-17. And now people are asking the same,” he told Star Sports on Thursday.

“One thing is for sure — I have always looked to improve and every time I have thought I have bowled well, I have always found another gear. So I’ll not be surprised if I surpass myself in the future as well.”

If Ashwin indeed switches to a higher gear over the next few years, you can rest assured that both opposition batsmen and statisticians will have an even harder time keeping up with him.

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