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‘I was more of a batter’ – How a club match made Ashwin an off-spinner

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

R Ashwin, speaking on the Yorkshire Cricket: Covers Off podcast, recalled how a club match changed everything about him, as he shifted course from being an opening batsman to an off-spinner.

Ashwin said he was an opening batsman for India at the Under-17 level, before discovering his ability to bowl effective off-spin. The fact that the Tamil Nadu first-class side had a spinner’s spot vacant pushed him further to take up the craft on a permanent basis.

“My bowling came about pretty late,” he said. “I played as an opening batsman for India at Under-17 levels. I was more of a batter before I became a bowler. I used to bowl for my school side, and used to bowl for my university and all that. But it was more limited-overs format of bowling. I used to do it because I enjoyed doing it rather than looking to build a career out of it.

“But one fine game, I just turned over one afternoon when I played a club game. So basically, we were defending something like 310 and the opposition were 220 no loss or for one. I was in the National Cricket Academy then, came back for the game and started playing premier club cricket in Chennai. And the captain just said, ‘Why don’t you give me a couple of overs?’

“There were like five-six left-handers in the opposition line-up and I cleaned them up. I got 6-40 and we won the game from there and all of a sudden people started noticing me saying, ‘You know what this guy played for U-17 India, here he is, he is bowling and can bat, so why don’t we have a look at him’. The only spot that was left for in the first-class side was the spinner’s spot, and it wasn’t sealed.

“So for me to take a look at myself deeply and say, ‘You’re an off-spinner, you’re an off-spinner’ took me some sort of realisation. I’m trying to build a career out of something I never expected I’d be building. So for me, everything was about inquisitiveness, asking questions every day – whether I was growing from what I was in the morning to evening, was I improving from the morning session to the evening session.

“So this was how I had to set small targets for myself. I chased everything. I wanted to know more, wanted to get better by the day.”

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