For Ravichandran Ashwin, the 2010 edition of the Indian Premier League was a harsh reality check. The off-spinner has said that getting dropped from the Chennai Super Kings team that year served as a wake-up call for him.
During a podcast with cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar for ESPNCricinfo, Ashwin spoke about how the 2010 IPL with CSK affected him, the challenges of bowling in hostile conditions of Australia and England, and why Ravindra Jadeja is a “natural athlete”.
Ashwin recalled the 2010 IPL when he was dropped from the CSK squad after two bad games, which was “like a hard slap” for him, more so because he felt that coach Stephen Fleming “didn’t talk to him” and he was not backed enough.
“People thought that I think highly of myself but the flattening of the curve happened when I played in the IPL. It was like a slap in the face like ‘listen boss you are not even here’. I thought bowling in a T20 game was much easier than bowling in a first-class game,” Ashwin said.
It was after a game against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Bengaluru, when Robin Uthappa and Mark Boucher took him to the cleaners, that Ashwin’s confidence took a big hit.
“Robin Uthappa and Mark Boucher taught me harsh lessons as I bowled the 14th, 16th, 18th and 20th over against RCB. That youthfulness in me never told me that it was a challenge. I found it as an opportunity to pick wickets. I didn’t get wickets but went for 40 or 45 runs and put my team in a hole as the next game went into Super Over and we lost it. I was then dropped from the squad. It felt like a hard slap,” he said.
Back then, IPL franchises, during home games, would release players who were not in the first 18 in order to save hotel cost. Ashwin was back home watching CSK play on TV after the RCB game.
“I was dropped, I vacated the hotel and was sitting at home. I thought that I deserved better as I was in the 30 probables for the 2010 World T20 in West Indies (he didn’t make it to that tour),” he said. “Like I thought, why didn’t you [CSK] back me. I did exceedingly well in first three games and I had just had two bad games. Anybody can be hit for a couple of games.”
Ashwin admitted having issues with Fleming who he thought had let him down.
“Actually, I had an issue with Stephen Fleming that he didn’t have a chat. I valued him so much and he didn’t have a chat. So I was sitting at home watching CSK games and making promises in my head that one day I will turn the tide,” he said.
Ashwin has come a long way since then. The 33-year-old has picked 365 wickets from 71 Tests, but his performance in SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) hasn’t matched the lofty standards that he has set at home.
“Increasingly, the number of games I’ve played in England, I’ve started realising that for a spinner to be bowling in alien conditions and to be able to repeat similar numbers [as at home], you need to be bowling in all the possible right times of the game,” he said.
“And, secondly, you do need a little bit of luck. After 2014 when I had that South Africa game, I’ve taken a very serious look at my numbers and those numbers have significantly increased very, very well. For me to be able to deliver on a consistent basis abroad there are a lot of factors beyond just my performance.”
The current Indian team is known for its high fitness standard and when Manjrekar asked how he is a bit different to the lean modern day players, Ashwin compared himself to Jadeja to explain the difference.
“Let me tell you even if I train twice a day and then have a cheat meal, it will show on the weighing scale by 800 gm,” Ashwin said. “Certain people are blessed in a certain way and I love to take my comparison with that of Ravindra Jadeja. He is a blessed cricketer, who is completely physically fit.
“The harder I train, more rudimentary I become to stay even close to where Jadeja is. Whereas Jadeja is a natural cricketer, natural bowler, natural batsman. So he just needs to tick all boxes during a game.”
Ashwin said to attain Jadeja’s level of natural fitness, he needs to work two months prior to a series. “That’s why I need to think more while having a meal and taking accountability for it. Jaddu doesn’t even need to think as he will be able to land 30 overs on the spot because of his physical fitness,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)