The next time you switch on the television to watch Kings XI Punjab in action; don’t be surprised if you see a familiar tall figure bowling unfamiliar leg spin with Ashiwn written on the back of his shirt. Seeing the growing demands of wrist-spinners and the struggles of the batsmen against them, Ravichandran Ashiwn has decided to use his wrists more than his fingers in the upcoming season of IPL.
"This is part of my plan going into the IPL. I am just trying to build my armoury,” said Ashwin.
To prove there is merit to his thoughts; Ashwin, who was snapped up by Kings XI Punjab for INR 7.6 crores in the IPL auctions, even tried out his leg spinners in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, returning with respectable figures of 2 for 38 in his 9.1 over spell against Gujarat in Tamil Nadu’s opening encounter.
Ashwin’s move to resort to leg spin from his more productive off-spinners is not a sudden one. A series of events and a sudden rise of wrist spinners not only in world cricket but also close home has somewhat forced the No. 1 spinner of last year to develop the art.
Ashwin though, states wrist spin is not alien to him, in fact, it used to be one of his potent weapons during the initial stages of his career. “I used to bowl good legbreaks with my offspin action when I was playing league cricket in Chennai. Over a period of time, in a search to get my stock ball right, I obviously had to cut out a lot of those things. I had possessed a lot more variations. Having bowled offbreak as the stock ball for almost 10 years, trying to change things around is challenging. But I don't really settle for anything. At no point in my career, I thought 'this is it' and decided to settle for the rest of my career."
The Test specialist tag came rather suddenly for India’s premiere off-spinner. Not so long ago, he was India’s preferred choice across all formats when the Indian selectors decided to ‘rest’ him for the limited overs series against Australia. The rest unofficially turned into dropped with the arrival of two wrist spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who are causing a few headaches for the South Africans in their own backyard.
Ashwin’s bid to make a comeback in coloured clothing has a few more obstacles than just healthy competition. He first has to ensure his wrists obey him as well as his fingers. And in order to ensure perfect landing, he might have to adjust his action slightly, which may affect his stock delivery in the longer run.
“Balaji has been of great help. First time I was bowling legspin, we were working on some actions on how to gain momentum. How I can make a repeatable action work for me. For example, my arm doesn't go 45 degrees which is perfect for a leg spinner. I am more upright. I have to adjust my action. It has been a painful ride. One day it will come out well in the nets, and the next day it won't come out all right. It will be frustrating. I have gone through the entire journey and have reached a place where I can land the ball where I want to."