E A S Prasanna, whom Ian Chappell rates as the greatest off-spinner ever, tells Harish Kotian/Rediff.com what worked for Moeen and what didn't for Ashwin.
Spin legend Erapalli Prasanna is pained by Ravichandran Ashwin's below-par showing in the Southampton Test against England.
Prasanna believes it was one of the key reasons for India's defeat which saw them lose the series against England.
While off-spinner Moeen Ali emerged England's match-winner, taking 9 wickets in the game, Ashwin took a measly 3 wickets from nearly 52 overs in both innings.
"The impression that Ashwin gave was that he was attempting to get a leg before decision most of the times. The wicket was helping him, but instead of making them play forward, he wanted them to play off the backfoot, try and push to the square leg region and get caught at backward short leg. That was a big mistake," Prasanna, who took 189 wickets in 49 Tests for India, tells Rediff.com
Prasanna's bowling was magical; he was renowned for his masterly control over flight, always tempting batsmen with a flighted delivery, inviting them to drive against the spin through the off-side before beating them in the air.
That was something he found missing in Ashwin's bowling during the fourth Test.
Comparing Moeen and Ashwin, Prasanna, one of the most difficult spin bowlers to play, points out that the English spinner's length and line was instrumental in his success.
Asked if Ashwin was under pressure after Moeen picked 5 wickets in the first innings, the 78-year-old cricketing great says: "He should have got confidence to bowl from watching Moeen Ali. What was lacking if you compare Moeen Ali and Ashwin's bowling, if you take it ball to ball the number of balls Moeen asked the batsmen to play forward was more than Ashwin."
Providing more insights about what worked for Moeen and what didn't for Ashwin, Prasanna stresses: "Moeen Ali was successful because besides bowling some deliveries flat some balls were a little over-pitched. The very fact that Ashwin could cover drive him, or Virat or Rahane could hit him through extra cover or square of cover were indications that he bowled up to the batsmen."
"That means his basic intention was to invite the batsmen to play strokes whereas Ashwin, during his entire spell, I think, there were only 10 balls when the batsmen were trying to drive him, whereas it should have been the other way round."
"99 percent, he should have been looking to make the batsmen drive."
"The fundamental thumb rule on a wicket like this (Southampton) is that you should not try to do anything, just bowl a good length and the line is off-stump. Length is mandatory and the line is off-stump on a wicket like this which was not there in Ashwin's case," Prasanna explains.
"I was rather surprised because a bowler with so many wickets behind him he was still bowling flat and he was bowling at a speed of around 49 (mph) or so, which is not desirable at all because it was a difficult wicket to play strokes."
The legendary spinner slams Indian Captain Virat Kohli for his field placements.
"India's field placements were awful. There was no absolutely no fielder in place for the mishit which is more likely to happen on this sort of a wicket. I was surprised about the field placements because the bowler (Ashwin) was bowling flat and trying to contain runs."
"I think some commentator was saying that Ashwin is bowling and restricting at one end, but he should have been the key wicket taker from one end," Prasanna points out.
Prasanna has this important advice for the struggling Ashwin ahead of the final Test at the Oval, where he believes the visitors must play two spinners, including Ravindra Jadeja.
"India still depends a lot on Ashwin. He has to bowl length on a wicket like this and if the Oval pitch is similar he should look to make the batsmen drive through the off-side."
"The percentage of deliveries where the batsmen is leaning forward to drive will be an indication of his bowling, you will then get to know whether he is bowling good or bad," he says.
Prasanna is angry about the Indian selectors' decision to send young left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav home after the third Test.
"I think they made a mistake by sending Kuldeep Yadav home," says Prasanna. "He could have got some experience of how to bowl in English conditions. I don't know whose decision it was to send him home, it is one of the worst decisions I could think of."
"To promote a youngster you cannot send him home."