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‘Their intention was to humiliate us’ – The Under-22 game that reminded Ashwin of the SCG Test

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

After an exhibition of grit and composure at the SCG on day five of the Australia-India Test, R Ashwin took to his YouTube channel to describe an Under-22 game from his playing days which reminded him of the drawn game in Sydney.

“I can recall similar incidents from another match. It was an Under-22 game between Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad in Vizag from 2007/08. You might wonder if there’s any comparison between the two, but it was pretty intense,” Ashwin says in his latest YouTube video.

Ashwin describes it as “one of the greatest matches” he had been a part of. A heated game boiled down to the last day when Hyderabad set Tamil Nadu a target after a surprising assault late on the second last day of the match.

Ashwin describes that Hyderabad made a strong total by U22 standards (297) by day two after a strong, attacking opening partnership. It got tougher for Tamil Nadu. They ambled along to 250 after a top-order collapse, copping comments from the Hyderabad players.

“They were sledging us heavily in the first innings. Sledging as in, they got personal as well. ‘Are you even a player? Just because you took wickets and scored runs against Goa and Kerala, you consider yourself a cricketer?’ We had a bit of rivalry against some of their players. It became a one-on-one battle after a point. Add to that, we conceded a first-innings lead, so it was a bitter pill to swallow.”

Hyderabad seemingly went on to take a massive lead after an attacking opening stand and early next day and set 300-plus runs to win within 80-82 overs. On a deteriorating wicket, with men around the bat and constant chirping, Hyderabad were challenging Tamil Nadu to try and chase down the target.

“Their intention was to humiliate us,” Ashwin says. “To have men around the bat and sledge us when we come to bat.”

While the Tamil Nadu skipper talked about saving the game and trying to gain two points, Ashwin instinctively felt that attacking and looking to chase down the target might be a better bet. Ashwin describes that in the huddle, he told the players to back themselves.

“If you look at the ability, we are far better than them. So, let’s go for it. We should either leave as champions or go down losing. Why play for 2 points?”

While the coach and captain weren’t in favour of the approach, the players were backing Ashwin’s belief according to him.

The match went down to the wire after some aggressive batting from Tamil Nadu, retaliating on the back of the comments from the Hyderabad close-in fielders. It started getting dark with the umpires asking the batsmen, as was the custom then, if they wanted to go off. Instead, in fading light, Tamil Nadu closed in on the target and with four balls left in the game, with eight wickets down, Ashwin, who had already made a half-century, smashed a four to take Tamil Nadu home.

“We circled the players and teased them and I still can’t believe it did not turn into a fight. The match referee took all 22 players aside and asked ‘what are you guys doing’ I know about the high-flying intent and stuff. But you guys have to be responsible’. He spoke to me and said ‘you are already into the next level playing Ranji Trophy and you shouldn’t engage in this stuff’.”

Having been shown videos of the incident, Ashwin was embarrassed by his behaviour. He states that these incidents leave mental scars on the players. Before the last day of the SCG Test, Ashwin says the only two things he thought about were Faf du Plessis’ marathon innings in Adelaide in 2012 and this particular game.

“The seed that you plant today, reap you all the benefits tomorrow,” Ashwin says, hinting that he felt on the day before the final day that his behaviour that day would come back to haunt him on day five in a similar situation against the Aussies.

Ashwin concludes by stating that the particular U22 season was “a turning point” in his career.

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