Being Ravichandran Ashwin is not easy. To try to wrap your brain around the notion that one moment you are the top-ranked Test bowler in the world, and the next you are presented with the harsh truth that being the greatest in the world does not guarantee a berth in India’s starting XI. Since mid-2017, Ashwin has mostly been a one-format player for India (barring a brief return in 2021-22), but even in that format, his appearances have been sporadic, with Ravindra Jadeja, who is just as good with an improved batting pedigree, taking the lone spinner’s spot on tracks designed to keep India from playing both together.
And so it proved in last month’s World Test Championship final at The Oval, where India labored for control and incision on the opening day, ceding the advantage and, eventually, the coveted crown after five days. The 36-year-old, who returned to play T20 cricket in the TNPL before returning to the Caribbean, demonstrated he’d lost none of his red-ball rhythm with a five-fer – his 33rd in Test cricket – on the first day of India’s next WTC in Dominica.
“I’ve discussed it. “It’s very difficult as a cricketer to have a WTC final and have to sit out,” Ashwin remarked. “That’s all right. But what’s the difference between me and someone else if I wind up sulking in the locker room? I was mentally prepared to play when we reached the WTC final. I had prepared physically and emotionally, as well as planned for the game. But I was also prepared to walk away from the game.
“How do I respond if I’m not playing?” How can I ensure that the dressing room is fully operational? The most essential thing is that I win the WTC final; it may be a high point in my career, and I would have had a significant role in it. things was just unfortunate that things did not work out. The first day simply put us in the shed too far behind. All I want to give my colleagues and Indian cricket as a whole is some understanding and my best efforts on the field, and that’s it.”
After India lost the toss here in Dominica, Ashwin was forced into action as early as the ninth over. He drew a nervy inside edge off Tagenarine Chanderpaul with his first ball and, by his third over, had joined a select group of bowlers – Ian Botham, Wasim Akram, Mitchell Starc, and Simon Harmer – to dismiss both parts of a father-son duo in Test cricket. To reach the milestone, the ace offspinner added the wicket of skipper Kraigg Brathwaite before lunch, then dismissed top-scorer Alick Athanaze, Alzarri Joseph, and Jomel Warrican.
“The wicket had some bounce, especially from the pavilion end.” The wicket also had some slope to it, which provided us some bounce. However, we made excellent use of the first session. The wicket had some wetness on it, and it was evaporating quickly. As you can see, they displayed a graphic indicating that it was turning more [during the second session], but the turn was very gradual. But there was bounce in the first session, and the pace off was strong, and there was bite. We made excellent use of it. The way [Jermaine] Blackwood came out just before Lunch, the momentum completely flipped to us. “I also thought Jaiswal and Rohit batted very well to help us have a very dominant first day,” Ashwin remarked.
Ashwin’s five-wicket haul moved him beyond Anderson into sixth place on the list of Test cricketers with the most five-wicket hauls. Rangana Herath (34), Anil Kumble (35), Richard Hadlee (36) and Shane Warne (37) are all directly above him, with Muttiah Muralitharan (67) trailing well behind. Along the process, Ashwin became only the third Indian bowler to reach 700 international wickets, after Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Everything was worthy of consideration.
“There is no cricketer or human being in this world who has not experienced highs and lows,” Ashwin said. “When you’re down, you have two options: sulk or talk about it and then complain about it and go along with it and go down.” Alternatively, you can learn from it. As a result, I’m someone who is continuously learning from my lows.
“In fact, after this good day, the best thing that will happen today is that I’ll have a good meal, have a good conversation, talk to my family, go to bed, and then forget about it.” When you have a good day, you know it, but there are things you can work on to improve for tomorrow. This continual pursuit of greatness has served me well, but it has also been extremely taxing. It has not been a simple journey. For me, the trip has been exhausting, but I’m grateful for all of the lows because there are no highs without the lows.
“When I look back on my career, I wonder how it went by so quickly.” It’s been 14 years in the making, and if you count IPL, it’s been a 15-16 year trip. It just happened that way. All I would advise anyone is… the first time I met Rahul Dravid as a coach, he said, ‘It’s not about how many wickets you take, how many runs you score. You’ll forget about them all. Only the wonderful memories you make as a group will stay with you.’
“I wholeheartedly support that.” I’m not sure if he brainwashed me into doing it. From my perspective, I believe that this adventure has passed so quickly that I am unable to recall what occurred or how it transpired. I’m filled with gratitude for the adventure and everything the game has provided to me. I’m not sure how many more such opportunities will present themselves to me, but whatever they are, I’ll make the most of them. When cricket resumed after Covid, I promised myself that I would enjoy whatever happened… whether I was playing, getting dropped, or quitting. Whatever happens, I’m going to have a good time.”