Ravichandran Ashwin talks about identifying a batsman’s weakness and exploiting it. He also dwells on picking out a batsman’s strength and blocking it.
The India off-spinner threw much light on his methods and tactics in an interview with The Hindu here on Saturday and said the key was to impart revolutions on the ball and get it to dip.
Ashwin explains Chris Gayle, if denied width and room, would attempt to hit a spinner straight down the ground.
“If you toss one up and draw him into a stroke and then pull it back a little because of the revolutions on the ball, instead of clearing either long-on or long-off, he could be caught at mid-off or mid-on.”
The 26-year-old Ashwin shifts his attention to over and side spin “Someone with a high-arm action like me will get more over-spin than side-spin. Graeme Swann bowls a lot wider with his arm than I do, so he achieves plenty of side-spin. I also bowl the wider arm delivery to impart side spin these days.”
England’s Swann is an off-spinner Ashwin respects. “In the contemporary era, any off-spinner who has achieved so much without bending and straightening his arm has to be admired.” Not short on variety, Ashwin delivers from a clean action and does not bowl the controversial doosra. “I have the arm-ball, the carrom ball, and the under-cutter. The carrom ball drifts and spins away from the right-hander while the under-cutter cuts slightly away from the batsman. The top-spinner is a pretty natural delivery for me because of over-spin. The arm-ball is an important delivery while bowling at the left-handers.”
There are a couple of deliveries that Ashwin is working on. “I am developing a flipper that pitches just short of a length and skids on. I am also trying to get the carrom ball that spins into the right-hander. This will add a new dimension to my bowling.”
Ashwin talks about subtle changes in trajectory, length and angles. “I came round the wicket and got the left-handed Michael Hussey to drive in the Melbourne Test. Then I held one back, he went for the drive, and edged. I also bowled one that turned away from Shaun Marsh (another left-hander) and then got him with an under-cutter.”
Successful spin bowling is much about foxing the batsman. “When I come wide of the crease to a right-hander, he is looking for something outside the off-stump. If I then send down one on off-and-middle, his head could falter and his drive could be uppish.”
While bowling round the wicket can be productive for an off-spinner against a left-hander, Ashwin has had his share of success from over the wicket to the southpaws. “If a batsman is side-on, this line could open his stance, he could fall over. You can spin it across him or have him caught at mid-wicket.”
It can be hard for a bowler when a batsman goes fully forward or travels deep within his crease. Ashwin elaborates. “Michael Clarke is a good player of spin, can step out or hang back. But then, he defends with hard hands. The trick is to make him play back to a ball that is not really short.”