India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on Tuesday asserted that more than the turning Chepauk pitch, it was the mindset that helped his team dominate the second Test in Chennai.
The quality of the pitch became a subject of intense debate and former England players like Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen mocked it for being a dust bowl. England assistant coach Graham Thorpe had termed it as “challenging”.
Ashwin, who was named man-of-the-match for his match figures of 8/96 and a brilliant century in India’s second innings, played down the talk surrounding the pitch. England were bowled out for 164 in pursuit of 482 on Tuesday.
“As much as people were predicting things from the outside, those balls which were doing much didn’t get wickets, it was the mind doing things,” Ashwin said.
“I have been playing for years over here now and it takes pace and guile to do it. Keeping intent was very important,” he said after India’s massive 317-run win to level the four-match series 1-1.
Ashwin said he enjoyed his game in front of the home crowd as he is “aware” of the home conditions.
“Every load up gives a different result in terms of which way the pitch is behaving. I try and load up differently, use the breeze, use different angles to release the ball, speed of the run-up. This is working because the joy is coming out in my bowling and I have created this awareness for myself.
“This wicket was very different to the one we played on in the first game. This was a red soil wicket, the first one was a clay wicket,” said the 34-year-old who is just six short of the 400-wicket milestone.
Talking about his fifth Test ton that came in India’s second innings, he said, “It is very important to put the pressure on the bowlers because if you allow them to dictate terms, it is going to get easier.”
“I just wanted to take it upon myself, and after I connected the first ball, I knew I got a hang of this wicket. I am someone who tries hard, and when things don’t go my way, I try harder.”
Ashwin said his batting clicked on the advice of batting coach Vikram Rathour and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane.
“Vikram Rathore has been very supportive. My batting was more about hands, to think tactically instead of technically. Ajinkya played a crucial role in [during Australia tour] telling me that I was overthinking it. That innings in Sydney really set the tone for me.”
Speaking in Tamil in front of his home fans at the end, Ashwin said he felt like a hero and dedicated the win to the Chennai crowd.
“When I was young I’ve wondered if I would ever play on this ground and if people would turn out and clap for me, or whether I would play here. I’ve played here as an eight-nine year-old. I’ve watched matches from these stands, my dad would get me here for most of the games.
“I’m speechless right now. I’ve played four Tests matches here and this is easily the most special Test match. It gave me a hero feeling,” he said.
“Every time I bowled or removed my cap the feeling was just different [hearing the cheers]. During Covid times when there’s hardly any cricket, the knowledgeable Chennai crowd came in large numbers without worrying. I dedicate this win to the Chennai crowd. We went one-up after they allowed the crowd, hopefully we continue to do well [in the presence of crowds] in Ahmedabad as well.”
(With PTI inputs)