Since he made his international debut in 2010, Ravichandran Ashwin has had a roller-coaster ride but as he completes five years in international cricket, he seems to have finally found his feet.
He's sealed his place as India's primary spinner in all three formats of the game. Early in his career, he had to fight for for his spot against Harbhajan Singh, which is somewhat ironic considering Harbhajan is the reason Ashwin became an offspinner.
"I was an opening batsman who used to bowl fast-medium with the new ball. Then an injury prompted me to stay away from the game, Ashwin told ESPNCricinfo. "I started bowling offspin after seeing what he did in 2001 [against Australia] and that is where it began. India needed a role model like Harbhajan Singh back then, somebody who could start winning games for India with the ball. That is where my love for offspin began."
The two off-spinners bowled in tandem against Bangladesh last month - a rare occasion when India played them both. But Ashwin is of the view that the competition will exist in a country of billion people and he wouldn't get threatened by competition, rather, he would look at way to start getting better.
Over the years, Ashwin says he has found odd paths to success. He's tried changing his action and trajectory, included lots of variations and last year during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, he bowled with long sleeves - a move which copped a lot of criticism. Off-spinners had come under scrutiny for bowling with full sleeves during that period. However, Ashwin defends his actions saying that he was taught to bowl with a straight arm but he wore the long sleeves in order to get a competitive edge.
"If there is a 15-degree rule to be used as an advantage, why should I lag behind? There is a precise advantage that I wanted to use," Ashwin told ESPNCricinfo. "People started thinking I had gone mad but I did not take offence. I felt only mad people succeed in life and if you're mad about something and believe in something, you will come out on top. I felt to a greater degree that I did come out on top. If I hadn't ventured into those things, I would not have learned as much as I did."
There is a certain amount of elegance in Ashwin's batting. He averages a decent 36.03 in Tests and 35.72 in first-class cricket. He has opened the batting for Tamil Nadu and it's not just his bowling, he also spends a lot on time on his batting, he reaches 20 minutes early in the nets and gets his friends to bowl to him in a 15-yard net in his house.
"There are two dimensions to my batting. One is that I would not like to give my wicket away. The other aspect is that I can bat, so, why should I throw my wicket away?" Ashwin told the website. "I was an opener before. So I have a decent idea of how to score runs against the second new ball. I love my batting. The faster the bowler bowls, I really enjoy it. I'm good at playing spinners because I grew up in Chennai, where we get good turning wickets."
Ashwin bowled brilliantly in the Bangladesh series and he says that he would like to bowl the same way throughout his career. He also says that with the wickets much truer in Sri Lanka it's going to be a pretty tricky destination during their tour in August.
Click here to read the full ESPNCricinfo interview.
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