As India gear up to prolong their golden run in Test cricket at the picturesque coastal city of Galle, ace tweaker Ravichandran Ashwin waits eagerly to take field in his 50th Test match, in the midst of a fine run, that started at this particular venue, back in 2015. Amongst his 275 Test scalps, 151 have come in the 24 Tests in which he has featured since his last appearance at Galle – a phase which has earned him the ICC Cricketer of the Year award last year.
So, getting the opportunity to play a landmark Test in his happy hunting ground is like a ‘dream come true’ for the Tamil Nadu off-spinner and he has no hesitation to admit that.
“To come back to a place where I did really well in 2015 is like a dream come true because it was a momentous occasion… I was on the way back into the Test side and I got a six-for on the first day and went on to get a 10-for on the third day. It brings back a lot of good memories.
“And, 50th Test is definitely something that has come about. I am grateful to have gotten here. I think every Test match a blessing from here on,” said Ashwin, adding, “I think I’ve done reasonably well as a cricketer.”
Prior to the 2015 tour of Sri Lanka, Ashwin had gone through some terrible form in England and Australia. The ineffectiveness on those wickets took his confidence level to a dismal low. However, after the Galle Test, in which he registered a match figure of 10 for 160, his career took a U-turn.
Ashwin believes professionally evolved a lot since that game. He has changed from being a bowler desperate for success to someone who knows to take the bad day in his stride.
“I’m a lot calmer from what I was then . I think I was a bit like a cat on a hot tin roof, so to say. I was looking forward to performing desperately because sometimes, like I have said, my performances need to be that much more better for me to get anywhere in my career, so I’ve always lived that way and it’s kind of changed me over a period of time.
“I do take things in my stride — bad days, ordinary days and mediocre days are a part of a cricketer’s career. It’s important to learn from that and try and get better. I think I’ve become a far better cricketer [compared to 2015]. I just hope that if come back again, I would be a far better cricketer than what I am today,” said the 30-year-old who will India’s prime weapon will ball in Sri Lanka.
However, despite the success, often questions have raised over Ashwin’s below par overseas record in the five-day format. Even on a few tours we have seen Ravindra Jadeja was preferred over him in the playing eleven. Now, at the peak of his form, Ashwin wants to set the records straight starting from this three-Test series in Sri Lanka.
Well, he has to do it, especially keeping in mind that in next couple of years, India will be touring countries like South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia.
“Playing all those overseas tours has shown me just how tough Test cricket can be. I’ve learned from that. I set far higher benchmarks because I expect a lot out of myself.
“In the first 25 Tests, I went on a difficult tour of Australia, for a finger spinner. Now, I realise it was difficult indeed. The one thing I’ll pride myself on is that the second time I went there I was a far better bowler and put into practice what I learned on the first tour. I think I can hold my head high in that regard. Going forward, I don’t think home or away really matters. I will try and do the things I’ve been doing over the last three years.”
By his own admission, Ashwin doesn’t want to be a ‘survivor’ by just keep the captain and the coach in good humour and to that he needs be an all-condition bowler, which he is not currently. Thus, from his 50th Test, the Chennai boy will start his journey towards that prowess.