World Cricket: ‘Outlier’ Ashwin treasures rare double recognition


December 23, 2016

R Ashwin, who was named the ICC Cricketer of the Year and the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year on Thursday (December 22), dedicated the awards to his family and his Indian teammates and support staff.

The list of ICC awards winners – Cricnfo

December 23, 2016

R Ashwin, who was named the ICC Cricketer of the Year and the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year on Thursday (December 22), dedicated the awards to his family and his Indian teammates and support staff.

The list of ICC awards winners – Cricnfo

Ashwin, the top-ranked bowler and allrounder in Test cricket, played eight Tests from September 14, 2015 to September 20, 2016, the period under consideration for the awards. He did spectacularly well, scoring 336 runs with a highest of 118 at an average of 42, and grabbing 48 wickets at an average of 15.39. The period encompassed India’s 3-0 series win against South Africa at home and 2-0 triumph in the West Indies, both of which consisted of four Tests each. Ashwin was the Man of the Series in both.

While admitting that he thought he might get one award, he said ending up with two was very special, especially given that the Cricketer of the Year award had only been won by Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar among Indians before Ashwin.

“It’s a bit overwhelming and it is yet to sink in completely. At the same time, I was expecting to land one, but to end up with two awards was extremely special,” said Ashwin. “To be bracketed alongside Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar is indeed a matter of great pride.

“I want to dedicate this award to my family who have been a pillar of strength,” he added. “And not to forget all my team-mates and coach Anil Kumble who push me to give my best with their support and guidance.”

Ashwin said that his favourite performances in batting and bowling both came during the tour of West Indies in July-August. He picked out the 7 for 83 in North Sound, Antigua, in the first Test as his best bowling show. India won that match by an innings and 92 runs after racking up 566 for 8 declared, with Ashwin hitting 113 and Virat Kohli the top-scorer with 200.

West Indies were bowled out for 243 in the first innings, where Ashwin had a rare wicketless outing, sending down 17 overs for 43 runs. He made amends spectacularly when the home team followed on though, to bowl them out for 231, sending down 25 of the 78 overs India bowled.

In the third Test in St Lucia, which India won by 237 runs, Ashwin made 118 in India’s first innings after coming in at 87 for 4, and then seeing the score fall to 126 for 5 with the entire top order gone. However, with Wriddhiman Saha (104) also hitting a century, India made 353. Ashwin took 2 for 52 and 1 for 28 while bowling.

In a video on the ICC website and later on his Twitter channel, Ashwin elaborated on how his family and team had supported him. “It’s been a great couple of years, but this year has been even more special. What is very noticeable is the way I’ve batted, bowled and gone about my business – but what is more important as far as I’m concerned is the number of people that have gone behind my success.

“The first people I’d really like to thank are my family: my wife and special mention to my daughter as well. It’s been a great ride for the entire family. They are all closely associated with me and the game takes a toll on everybody at home and it’s not that easy. And then most importantly my teammates. We’ve had a great transition ever since Mahendra Singh Dhoni hung his boots last year in Australia. A young captain has taken over, we fell on the right track, and we now have a new bunch of boys. So this is dedicated to the team and to the support staff – special mention to all the skill coaches: Sanjay Bangar, (R) Sridhar and Anil Kumble who’s joined us. And not to forget Ravi Shastri as well.”

Ashwin also thanked B Arun, the former India bowling coach.

Arun told Wisden India, “Even when Ashwin was dropped (in the 2013-14 period), his focus was on being the best spinner in the world, not just on making a comeback. And it's been a beautiful journey.”

In an #askash session on Twitter afterwards, Ashwin was at his freewheeling best while responding to fan queries. While he singled out the wicket of AB de Villiers in Nagpur – he had set up the batsman with a succession of ripping off-breaks before throwing in the carrom ball to trap him front – as the best wicket of his career, he picked getting Alastair Cook out in the second innings of the third India-England Test in Mohali as the wicket he most enjoyed in India’s 4-0 win. Cook had been undone by Ashwin’s masterful line that dragged his bat away from his body before a straighter one went through to crash into the stumps.

Among the more fun aspects of the interaction, Ashwin said that tennis, table-tennis and all racquet sports were his favorites after cricket, and that if he could try something of another bowler, he’d like to try out the bowling action of Kumble, his coach. He also picked Cheteshwar Pujara and KL Rahul as two of his ‘partners in crime’ in the dressing room.

On the oft-repeated charge of ‘performing overseas’ Ashwin had a humorous take, pointing to his performances in Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia.

Ashwin also acknowledged that he was an “outlier” in the matter of following the game avidly among cricketers – keeping track of and watching every major cricketing match around the globe. If he hadn’t been a cricketer, he would have been a career consultant for the next generation, he said. When asked to pick between Kohli and de Villiers, Ashwin picked his Test skipper, because he said, “I watch him go through every stride before he goes out to bat.”

Courtesy: Wisden India