April 8, 2021 11:58:54 a.m.
There was a time when it was said that Ravichandran Ashwin had exceeded his best with the white ball. Recently, however, he has gone from strength to strength in trial cricket and has also shown that his white ball prowess has not abated. So much so that he still has a chance to knock firmly on the doors on the side of the World T20, for which a prosperous IPL bodes well for him.
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Ashwin has not featured in any white ball cricket for his country in the past four years. His hopes of returning are, in the current context, distant, to go by the affirmation of Virat Kohli during a press conference during the English series where he had categorically stressed that he was behind Washington Sundar in the scale .
To pick up on that well-worn quote: “Washington is doing really well for us. So you cannot have two players from the same discipline playing in the same place. So (it won’t happen) unless Washy has a terribly horrible season and things turn south for him.
Washington endured a scorching streak against England by its thrifty standards, but it has the confidence of the skipper. Plus, he’s supposed to be a better defenseman and white ball batsman than Ashwin. Even if Washington’s form slips significantly or gets injured, there are other contenders like Rahul Chahar and the late Axar Patel.
The question marks, ironically, will not be suffixed to his main occupation, but rather how fast he could get his groceries, or how mobile he could be in the field. He might not be forced to hit a higher position than No.8, so essentially his ability with the stick shouldn’t be a parameter.
But given modern teams’ fixation on hitting depth, even No.8s should be adept at hitting with power. Of greater concern would be its mobility in the field. He has keen reflexes, is he a safe receiver anywhere on the pitch, but can he do those dive dives or perform lightning chases at the boundary ropes or do the border pirouette? Washington could do all of these, and he gave little reason to think beyond himself.
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What Washington can do with the white ball, Ashwin can do better. He can take the new ball and bowl in super sports cars – Washington’s niche – gives economy and control, keeps one end tied in the middle of games, and can be left with death duties. Where he scores on Washington is his ability to negotiate wickets. Regardless of the format, he’s a bowler who likes to pick wickets rather than choke on lanes.
At his best, he could perform both. Coincidentally, they have the same rate of saving in IPL (6.87).
In the previous season, however, Washington’s was commendable at 5.96, while Ashwin’s was 7.66. But Ashwin is a more frequent wicket taker, hitting once in every 23 balls while Washington’s corresponding number is 31. Ashwin, no doubt, has more tips for buying wickets, which is a giveaway. -estimated in T20.
As India already has Savindra Jadeja, a master of thrift, Ashwin’s offensive instincts could provide bowling with another dimension. That Washington is a better batsman than Ashwin is also a myth, as the left-handed batsman has only shown his hitting abilities sporadically. Given the recent episode of inconsistency between spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, Ashwin offers an alternative. Also, in him Kohli has another sharp thinker to talk about tactics.
Simple. More counters, more errands, and a better economy rate than Washington. A few acrobatic holds would support his outlook as well. Another nuance that selectors would watch closely is his ability to play with the dew on the outfield, which is, even more, a deciding factor towards the end of the year. Most importantly, Ashwin has to show he has other gear in his staff.
If Ashwin could propel the usual Delhi Capitals underachievers to a title, with his bowling as well as leadership (but not the captain, a powerful voice in the locker room), he would have carved his IPL heritage in stone.