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In-form Ashwin vindicates Dhoni's decision

Last updated on: March 8, 2013 11:51 IST

In-form Ashwin vindicates Dhoni's decision

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Bikash Mohapatra

R Ashwin is in line for another player of the series award, says Bikash Mohapatra. After the first two Tests against Australia, has already a tally of 18 wickets, four more than he finished with against England.

Ahead of the opening Test against Australia, the Team India think-tank – spearheaded by captain MS Dhoni – took a decision, one that involved dropping Pragyan Ojha and going with an additional off-spinner (Harbhajan Singh).

It was a ruthless decision no doubt, Ojha having been India's best bowler (with 20 wickets) against England.

Besides, the replacement did not ooze much confidence either, Harbhajan having played just one Test in the last 18 months - and failing to impress in that – and having had a forgettable domestic season.

For that matter, even the lead spinner, R Ashwin, had struggled against the English onslaught. In fact, failing to impress against Alastair Cook's team was disappointing considering the fact that the bowler was the player of the series in Team India's previous two assignments on home soil – against the West Indies and New Zealand.


Image: R Ashwin
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
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Harbhajan is a shadow of his former self

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Dhoni's logic was simple, though. With Australia having plenty of left-handers in their side, he felt having two off-spinners – and the ball going away from the batsmen – would do the trick.

Now that two Tests are over, the strategy hasn't exactly worked, despite Team India winning both the matches comfortably.

Harbhajan is a shadow of his former self, failing to impress in either of the two matches. Getting a couple of tail-enders out does little to your confidence anyway.

Besides, with Ravindra Jadeja making a considerable impact with his left-arm spin, Dhoni, for sure, would be tempted to rethink his strategy, and consider having Ojha back in the coming matches.


Image: Harbhajan Singh
Photographs: BCCI
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Ashwin getting back his mojo

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What has worked well for Dhoni and Team India, though, is Ashwin getting back his mojo.

The offie, playing his first Test on home ground (Chennai), finished with a match haul of 12 for 193, including career-best figures of seven for 103 in the first innings.

It was the 26-year-old's second 12-wicket match-haul. He'd had figures of 12 for 85 against New Zealand last August in Hyderabad, where he returned with aplomb in the second Test, picking five wickets – the eighth five-wicket haul in his fledgling career – as Australia were beaten with five sessions left.

After two Tests, Ashwin has a tally of 18 wickets, four more than he had altogether in the series against England. No wonder Dhoni, having been vindicated, is happy with his charge.

'Yes, he has bowled really well,' said India's captain, adding, 'Overall, I'm very happy with his performance.'


Image: R Ashwin
Photographs: BCCI
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'It was important for him to come back'

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Dhoni proceeded to defend Ashwin's performance against England.

'It's just that in that period he was not able to pitch the deliveries at the right areas,' he explained, adding, 'he has always been very consistent with his length, and this was the period when he was not very consistent.

'It was important for him to come back and I'm glad that in this series, he has bowled a very good length and has been very consistent as compared to the last series.'

The bowler himself did not rue the fact that he missed out against England.

'I know everyone has an opinion but I don't think I had a bad series against England. I did all that I'm doing now. It's just that I didn't get wickets then,' he explained.


Image: R Ashwin
Photographs: BCCI
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'He's someone who has got a lot of variations'

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His impressive tally of wickets apart, it is Ashwin's success against the left-handers that has ensured rich dividends for Team India, despite Harbhajan failing to impress.

For those into statistics, seven of Ashwin's 12 victims in Chennai were left-handers, while in Hyderabad there was only one right-handed batsman (Glenn Maxwell) among his six scalps.

In his Test career thus far, Ashwin averages an impressive 22.00 against left-handers, while the numbers drop to 38.00 against right-handers.

Dhoni attributed Ashwin's success against the Australians to his variations. 'We all need to respect the fact that he's someone who has got a lot of variations.

"He knows he can bowl those variations and that's his strength,' said Dhoni.

With Australia's batsmen having failed to find a method to counter Ashwin thus far, the off-spinner will definitely bolster his tally in the upcoming matches and might just be a contender for the player of the series again.


Image: R Ashwin
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
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