NORTH SOUND (ANTIGUA): R Ashwin had two Test centuries against West Indies at home before this but something gives that his third on Friday, batting at No.6 for the first time in his career, might be a life changer for him.
Given how India are lined up to play a big home season after this tour, the timing of Ashwin’s innings is paramount. A spinning allrounder is a much better bet since it’s impossible to maintain the fitness of a medium pace one. Ashwin ticks all the boxes for this role. He is also a good fielder in the slips. He takes pride on putting a price on his wicket but also backs it with a solid defensive technique and an array of copybook strokes, especially in front of the wicket and down the line.
Of course, not every bowling attack will be as insipid as West Indies but Ash win still showed the intent to give himself time and not hurry into any shot. His century on Friday was perfect foil for Vi rat Kohli’s aggression.
Ashwin’s batting ability was always valued highly but never during MS D hon i’ s reign did he get to bat at No.6. That finally changed under Kohli.
“I have always wanted to bat in the top seven for the Indian team, which is along-time-goal,” Ashwin said. “I need to thank Anil bhai and Virat for having the confidence in me. Virat called me in the morning and said‘ you’ ll be batting at six, ahead of Saha’, which is a big boost to my confidence.”
Against a listless opposition on a flat pitch, Ashwin grabbed the chance with both hands. It helped that Kohli was at the other side when he came to the cr ease. While the India captain kept the score going with boundaries and singles, Ash win used all the time he wanted to settled own almost unnoticed. By the time K oh li departed, he was solidly saddled at 64.
Ashwin revealed he had worked a lot on his technique. “Sanjay Bangar worked really closely with my stance for the last 12 months. It has been a challenge. I used to be extra side-on and I had to open myself a little bit. That change is very effective. I have not driven straight down the ground for a very long time. The other things like my initial movement and other things had to be sorted,” he said.
His improvement showed. Of the 12 boundaries struck by Ashwin, his on-drive past Jason Holder was as good as anybody’s. Then there was a backfoot punch through mid-on.