Ravichandran Ashwin’s class was never doubted but critics none the less had a dig at him when he had a poor Test outing at Rajkot. The pitch did not have much turn or bounce and India’s strike bowler struggled to pick up wickets.
Prior to the Test Ashwin did not play any cricket for about a month or so as he was rested for the One-Day series against New Zealand and therefore he looked very rusty in the game at Rajkot.
Ashwin claimed match figures of 3/230 as England fought brilliantly. His other spin partners, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja too suffered almost the same fate and the Indian attack suddenly lacked the teeth for the first time in four years.
But then came Vizag, where things changed. The pitch here was executed to turn big and it did not disappoint. India made full use of winning the toss and batting first and piled a huge total in excess of 400 on the scoreboard.
England were on track in pursuit of the mammoth first innings score as Joe Root and Ben Stokes made life quite difficult for the Indian bowlers but then Ashwin suddenly sprang back to form. He tore through the lower order to grab another final wicket haul.
In the match, Ashwin also found an old friend and a debutant to share the burden with—Jayant Yadav and little did he disappoint. It was after Mishra’s lacklustre outing in the first Test that India decided to give Jayant, an off-spinner a chance as the English had seven left-handed batsmen within their ranks.
The two Indian off-spinners along with left-arm tweaker Ravindra Jadeja accounted for 14 of the 20 English wickets as the hosts clinched a massive 246-run victory.
Besides the wickets they shared Jayant and Ashwin were also involved in a 64-run partnership in the first innings after a bit of a wobble in the middle order.
"Jayant is a great kid. His work ethics are great. He has a very strong temperament. There's nothing hurried about his action," said Ashwin.
The rapport between the two began in Chennai
However, this is not the first time these two have taken the field together, a lot of people do not know but Jayant had travelled to Chennai some two-three years back to practise alongside Ashwin so that he could develop more as an offspinner.
Ashwin himself confessed it, saying both of them share a very good rapport.
“Jayant and me go back a long way, actually. Two-three years ago, he came down to Chennai and stayed near my house for about two weeks. He practised with me and I know the boy really well. He is someone who can really understand what I say and we have a very, very good rapport,” said Ashwin, a few days back at a press conference.
Perhaps that close bond also allowed the duo to bat brilliantly against England bowlers who had their tails up after getting three quick wickets in the first innings.
"I had to tighten my batting. I have done the hard yards. It was also a beautiful partnership with Jayant. Communication is something that gets me going and he is someone who absorbs communication very well," Ashwin said.
Jayant, who had a memorable debut, and finished with figures of 1/38 and 3/30 with the ball and scores of 35 and 27 not out, said it took a lot of pressure off him, bowling in tandem with Ashwin.
"Bowling in tandem with Ash is great. It takes the pressure off you. He always gives meaningful inputs and he never questions what you are doing," he said. He also credited Ashwin for his rise to international cricket.
“I first got to know him in 2014 through India bowling coach Eric Simons. I think he was preparing for his England tour and it was very sweet of him to help me because at that time, I was just playing Ranji Trophy. Just to see him how he prepares and to get inputs from him was quite special. After that, we stayed in touch.”
“He talks a lot of sense about bowling. It is all about learning, I feel. He did not give me a lot of technical inputs (in this match) but he told me about bowling different lines to different batsmen, being consistent all the time, and where I was erring on the length.”
Though very different, both have their unique way of troubling the batsmen and they did that in plenty during the course of this game.
Comparing their bowling styles
Comparing the two, we find Ashwin is generally very open chested while Jayant is more side on. But the tweaks given on the deliveries are very similar.
Ashwin, being more front on has the advantage of bowling the carrom ball too, which for Jayant can be quite a difficult prospect.
But Jayant is a quick learner and has already taken to the pause action delivery. If one notices Jayant very minutely he would see that for slower deliveries he does not rush into his action, instead, it’s a slow run-up that gets him to the crease.
Now, Ashwin is very well known for such kind of pause action deliveries but his is more noticeable as the halt is quite long.
Also one thing about their batting is that they are genuine batsmen and not tailenders. Ashwin has so far scored 4 centuries in Tests and he is getting better with each passing day and Jayant too impressed quite a lot with the bat.
After a 35 in the first innings, Jayant followed it up with an unbeaten 27 in the second and seemed quite comfortable handling the England bowlers.For now, the Indians are hoping that the chemistry between the duo would continue for the rest of the series with Jayant as Ashwin’s perfect partner in crime.