"R Ashwin Is Mentally Tougher Than Virat Kohli, Another Top International Cricketer" | Exclusive
R Ashwin spends the majority of his time away from home representing his country at the top level of cricket. He regularly participated in club matches in Tamil Nadu and represented his franchise in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) when he was not with the Indian national team. When he's not on the field, he'll watch the game on TV and comment on it. He would keep everyone entertained with his YouTube channel when he isn't watching.
Cricket's continued popularity isn't a fluke; it's been around for a long time. Ashwin's fascination with the game began early on in life and only grew stronger as he got older. The offie's childhood coach, Sunil Subramaniam, said that he played in over two thousand games before finally being given a chance to play for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy.
"Ashwin had played two thousand matches by the time he was called for (the) Ranji Trophy. For as long as he could, he would play music nonstop. He still plays cricket regularly. Subramaniam claims that he is still actively participating in the TNPL's Twenty20 competition.
The coach has always had complete confidence in his ability to achieve success at the top level. Since Subramaniam was confident that his charge will achieve great success given the right circumstances, the question of "when" was a constant topic of conversation.
A cricketing mind and talent beyond his years were immediately apparent to me at our first meeting. Getting the perfect break at the right time may make or break a cricketer in a country like India. That was the only thing bothering me at the time. I say this from personal experience; I once held the title of finest left-arm spinner in the country but was never given the opportunity to play for India. Once inside India's massive borders, it's not just challenging to leave the country again. That was my one and only worry about Ashwin. It's not just in cricket where luck plays a role in winning.
Skill is only one aspect of the game, and I can give you countless examples of talented batters and bowlers who never advanced. Subramaniam says, "Once he got his chance, I knew he would make a huge impact."
"The most difficult mentally..."
More than a decade after making his debut in all three forms, Ashwin's career has seen its share of ups and downs, but he has always managed to come out on top thanks to his unwavering determination. It hasn't been a pleasant ride for him, what with injuries and being overlooked for key matches and white-ball formats. In contrast, Ashwin is "mentally the toughest international cricketer going around, even tougher than Virat Kohli," according to the coach who previously managed the Indian cricket team from 2017 to 2019.
Ashwin is the mentally toughest international cricketer there is, even tougher than Virat Kohli, from what I have seen and dealt with. In addition, I have formed my opinion based on my observations since 2011. I had watched Virat and Ashwin grow up, so I knew he needed to break out of his funk. These two gentlemen aren't your standard cricket players. People with such resilience and brilliance are extremely unusual to encounter.
The physical demands placed on a bowler are what set them apart. It towers much above a batter in height. I am aware of the dedication Virat has shown towards his physical preparation, but he is a batter, not a bowler. This work is far less taxing on the body. It's unfair that Ashwin was hurt so badly and then ignored afterward. Those were trying times, but the make-up of our squad necessitated it. It says a lot about this world-class spinner that he is willing to sacrifice playing time in big games in order to be available for his country. When it comes to toughness, he is number one. Subramaniam claims, "At this point, there can be no longer be any doubt."
Any officers around?
Since the 2017 Champions Trophy final loss, Ashwin has been left out of ODI preparations in favour of a heavier reliance on wrist spin. During that time, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal established themselves as two of India's go-to spinners, while Ashwin saw only two opportunities in the last six years, both of which came in recent One-Day Internationals against Australia. Subramaniam believes that the rule changes, lack of penetration in the middle overs, and inability to stem the flow of runs were all factors in the decision to look ahead to Jadeja and Ashwin during that time.
I see why he hasn't been selected for the past few seasons. It happened right in front of me while I was the manager of the Indian cricket team. I am aware of the foundation upon which this stands. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were counted on to take wickets in the middle overs for us up till the 2017 Champions Trophy. If you can't stop the scoring with wickets, at least slow the run rate. At that point, though, two new balls were introduced, none of which proved effective at claiming wickets or limiting scoring. So we had Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav play because Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli came up with this concept of two wrist spinners," adds Subramaniam.
Ashwin wasn't the only one who felt the intensity of the sun at that time. All around the track, the off-spinners disappeared.
Check out all the off-spinners in international cricket. What's up? There are now just three off-spinners allowed in the shortened version of the game due to rule changes, two new balls, and the penalty of an extra fielder in the ring. The names Moeen Ali, R. Ashwin, and M. Nabi immediately spring to mind. There is no cricket in Nabi's life. Spinners of Nathan Lyon's calibre have been eliminated from the sport. The total number of games a player like Ashwin has played should be considered when choosing him for a specific format and demand. "Maybe not in the form for which he has been drafted," Subramaniam clarifies.
The mental state and readiness
Ashwin's demeanour and work ethic at this time stood out to coach Subramaniam, who is currently affiliated with MSK Prasad's academies in Seattle and Hyderabad.
Despite everything that was going on, Ashwin continued to play domestic cricket and even gave international cricket a shot. So it's hardly anything that would test his mettle. To be considered for the selection, he required those ODIs against Australia. With Ashwin, it was merely a matter of monitoring his progress and include him in the team's strategies. Subramaniam claims, "He has played so much cricket that he is always prepared."
Ashwin's preparations have been in full flow ever after Rohit Sharma gave him the real call up. Ashwin has been diligent in his preparation for this match, having already checked in at the NCA and played a local club game before joining the squad for the Australia series. The time and effort he is devoting to the nets, both with the ball and the bat, is impressive, and should serve as motivation for young players.
This pitch has seen Ashwin's many spectacular performances across forms, and it might very well help him add a glorious chapter to his already sparkling career if he gets the chance to play here.