Ashwin's return to Chepauk
The pitch wouldn't respond, but Ashwin is a trier. Burns’ reverse sweep falls partly to Ashwin’s dip and partly to his extra bounce. And mostly to Ashwin’s calculative mind and his guile.
He has done it all in India. 5 wicket hauls, 10 wicket hauls, man of the series, denting the opposition once every 50 balls. Ask Ashwin and he would definitely need more of everyone of this. He isn’t nearly satisfied with what he has achieved. But, he would have wanted nothing more than an opportunity to bowl at the Chepauk again. 4 years and counting, Ashwin finally returns to his home ground to spin a web. He gets not 1 but 2 matches at a venue where he has played all his life. He has grown up hearing his dad talk about the 1986 tied test match at Chepauk, co-incidentally the same year when the off-spinner was born.
Most spinners would happily settle for an average of over 30. Not Ashwin, not at his home ground. Not at a venue where he has learnt all the tricks of the trade, the best of which the rest of the world has seen. The day has finally come to set that rather ordinary record straight.
7 overs into the England innings, 10 runs on the board, the moment has come sooner than Ashwin expected. He hands over his cap to Pujara, a quick little chat with Virat and off he goes to do what he knows best. A statistic is beamed on the screen : Ashwin is the most successful bowler for India with the new ball for over 15 years. Ashwin doesn’t know, but almost as if on cue, he slides one on with the arm, as he so often does, to Rory Burns from around the wickets. The second ball bounces steep.
There is nothing much in the pitch. But Ashwin is a trier. He goes 80, 85, 90, 86 kph in a span of four balls, trying his pace variations. The pitch doesn’t respond. But, Ashwin being Ashwin, isn’t short of ideas. Tries over the wicket to Rory Burns and around to Sibley. Just when you felt like the experiment isn’t working, Ashwin draws a false shot from Burns. Burns’ reverse sweep falls partly to Ashwin’s dip and partly to his extra bounce. And mostly to Ashwin’s calculative mind and his guile.
Fast forward to post lunch session, Ashwin is up against Joe Root from the Anna Pavilion end. Knowing Ashwin, he is relishing the challenge. Conventional wisdom would have meant the off spinner operates over the wicket, but Ashwin is anything but conventional. Goes around the wicket and gets one to drift. So much drift that a pace bowler would have been proud to call it his out-swinger. Root is beaten and comprehensively at that. The follow up was a one which did Joe in the air. Root skips down the track, tries to play it leg side along with the turn. Ashwin catches him in a no-man’s land as he gets it to dip and drift, taking Joe’s leading edge. The very next over Ashwin produces a ball that so desperately wants to come in, but goes on with the arm to Sibley. Sibley has no clue, he hangs his bat in hope. The next ball is a bait wide outside off-stump and Sibley almost falls for it, attempting a dangerous cut. Ashwin has done his bit.
After a long hiatus, the off-spinner conjured up a magic spell that has always been coming at Chepauk. He was constantly in the ears of Sundar and Nadeem. The veteran was passing on every bit of his familiarity with the wicket and the venue to his skipper. Ashwin at Chepauk has arrived. The magic has been summoned and the wickets will follow.