Erapalli Prasanna was one of the greatest off-spinners of the game and was described by Ian Chappell as the greatest slow bowler he had ever faced. He played 49 Tests, picking up 189 wickets. In an exclusive conversation with CricketSoccer.com, the legend talks about Ravichandran Ashwin’s evolution as India’s frontline spinner and Virat Kohli as captain.
Here are the excerpts:
CricketSoccer (CS): Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest to reach 300 wickets in test cricket in the recently concluded India-Sri Lanka series. Your thought.
Erapalli Parasanna (EP): I think it’s a great achievement. His performance is really admirable. And don’t forget that he surpassed the record of a legend like Dennis Lillee on his way to become the fastest to reach 300 wickets mark in Test Cricket. It’s a fantastic achievement. Ashwin is a very good bowler. Obviously, everything will fall into place because he is not only a bowler or spinner, he is a very intelligent cricketer too. Therefore, this record is not a surprise to me as he has already broken most of the bowling records so far. He is bound to get more success and I am sure he will reach a new peak in the cricketing world by the time he will decide to hang up his shoes.
CS: How are you seeing his chances to succeed in the upcoming tour to South Africa?
EP: I am pretty sure that he will do exceptionally well in South African soils too. South African wickets now are not that hard and bouncy that they used to be once. If India, batting first, can put up a decent total of 300 or 350 runs, I got a feeling that Ashwin might be fatal for the batsmen to face. He will be amongst wickets and will help India to do well.
CS: So do you feel toss will be a factor?
EP: Yes. From India’s point of view, winning the toss is going to be very crucial. If Virat Kohli wins the toss, he should not hesitate to bat first. They should target to bat at least 120 overs and put up decent runs in the scoreboard. And again I am saying, if they have sufficient runs on the scoreboard, I am sure Ashwin will be their man to win the match.
CS: Ashwin has recently played county cricket for Worcestershire. Do you think that his experience of playing county will help to do well outside the subcontinent as well as in South Africa?
EP: Yes of course. Anything that he has learnt playing in the county will aid his bowling strength. Bowling in the subcontinent and in English condition are a completely different experience. He will know what should be the appropriate approach for a spinner to get success outside the subcontinent. This is essential for him to succeed. In county cricket, negative bowling cannot give you wickets. I mean if you bowl only to restrain the flow of runs, you cannot be effective, especially as a spinner. Now, he will know exactly what is needed to do better in pace bowling friendly wickets. He will have a clear idea what line and length to bowl.
CS: What would be your advice to him to get success in South Africa?
EP: He has to bowl tight and at the same time he should look menacing as a bowler. Bowling tight is one side, but the most important thing is you have to pick wickets. Ashwin has the ability to pick wickets. You must look dangerous also as a bowler. Therefore I expect him to do a lot better in South Africa.
CS: You are seeing him for a long time. Have you identified any changes that Ashwin made in bowling?
EP: One different thing is now he is making the batsman play. That’s why he is looking dangerous. He didn’t do this earlier. Because the more number of balls you make the batsmen play, that same amount of chance will be there to take wickets. This he has learnt over the years. And the percentage of the good length areas that he is hitting is much more than what he used to do. And thirdly, he has learnt how to use the seam. He is not just bowling negatively you know. So these are things which he has improved. That is essential to become successful in international cricket. Ashwin is a very intelligent person. He has played over 50 tests now. He has county experiences. And he is bowling length and makes the batsmen play all the time. And these are the facts why his success rate is higher. I think Ravichandran Ashwin is currently the best spinner in the world. Not just that, he is a batsman-cum-bowler. He is doing excellently, and I can promise you one thing, I admire him for his capabilities and the way he is conducting himself, for when required, he can bat as well. But more importantly, he is bowling well and is the sheet anchor for the Indian attack. I have a lot of respect for his batting. I would rather club him as one of the best all-rounders available in this game.
CS: What are your views on Virat Kohli as Test captain?
EP: I like his attitude. I have the same approach. I don’t allow things to rule me, I try to rule them. In that way, he is a positive thinker, a brilliant batsman and fielder. Things are good for him now; he has got a well-set team. Very likely, he has thought of five bowlers, and that is a very positive way of looking from a captain’s angle. He doesn’t say how many runs are to be scored, he always says we have to take 20 wickets, so his thinking is right.