Before the series began, the battle between Ravichandran Ashwin and Kane Williamson was arguably the most vital as well as the most eagerly anticipated one. The off-spinner has dismissed the New Zealand skipper in all the three innings in which he got the opportunity to bowl at him.
Needless to say, his dominance over the third-ranked Test batsman could be attributed as a key reason for India’s commanding position in the 3-match series.
At the end of day press conference, the 30-year old shed light into his strategy to prise out Williamson’s wicket on a regular basis. He also acknowledged coach Anil Kumble’s role in helping him formulate different plans for various situations.
Had a plan for Williamson: Ashwin
Ashwin revealed, “When I start my spell, it's all about getting into good rhythm and be able to really accelerate and get through the crease fast. That's what I really look forward to. Once I get into that good rhythm, I think I can beat any batsman in the world. That's where I stand right now. It also matters that I had come into the series with a plan especially taking off from where Kane Williamson got out in Bangalore when they came last time (2012). He lunged forward and got out at slip. He just lunges outside off stump so that’s one of the things I thought I will repeat in this series.”
The match which he pointed out was the second Test between the two teams in Bangalore during the 2012 series. After New Zealand had eked out a 12-run lead in the first innings, they were placed at 69/2 in the second essay when Ashwin lured Williamson forward with a tossed up delivery and extracted the edge. Not surprisingly, the wily spinner noticed the 26-year old’s trigger movement which turned out to be extremely handy in this series.
The first Test at Kanpur saw Williamson getting trapped on the move following his eagerness to shift his body weight onto the front foot. Ashwin held his length back a touch and managed to spin the ball sharply towards the stumps. While the amount of turn was not as pronounced, this time, the Kiwi captain once again paid the price for relying on horizontal bat shots.
After the visitors had got off to a solid start, India needed quick wickets in the post lunch session. Their lead spinner produced perhaps his best spell of the series to deliver a 258-run lead. He got his 20th five-wicket haul of his eventful career to instigate a collapse in the New Zealand innings.
Bowled a special spell, says Ashwin
On the game-changing spell, Ashwin quipped, “It was pretty special. I think it's very important for me to get into good rhythm. Through the series, I haven't really started in fine rhythm actually. I am trying to get my alignment and rhythm properly. It's taking me a few overs. Once I go through it, my body starts going through completely into the ball and the spell starts getting better. That was one of the spells after lunch.”
‘Enjoy my conversations with Anil Kumble’
Unlike the manner in which he operated in the previous seasons, his utilisation of the crease, as well as the thought process behind setting up opposition batsmen has been quite discernible. Anil Kumble’s arrival into the think tank as head coach may have contributed in the new tactics that Ashwin uses. Aside from his obvious mastery of Indian pitches, the confidence in providing his team with wickets at critical junctures and outthinking well-set batsmen could signal prosperous days outside the subcontinent too.
Kumble has different plans for opposition batsmen
When asked about the influence of Kumble on his trade, Ashwin said, “(Those have been) good discussions on cricket and good discussions on what you can be doing for different batsmen. He gives different plans when we go into lunch and tea. If somebody is batting well, he gives you different ideas about fields you can have and how differently I can throw the ball wider than normal.”
The Tamil Nadu cricketer added, “For instance in Eden Gardens (2nd Test), it was Anil Kumble's idea after the tea break. He was the one who asked me to push the ball wider and see how it goes, it worked. He is also a person who I can go and talk to and try to take feedback. I enjoy my conversations with him.”
However, Ashwin will be aware that his job is not done yet. With a 3-0 whitewash opening up a 4-point lead at the top of the Test rankings, India might want him to maintain his grip over Williamson in the second innings as well and capitalise on a surface which could deteriorate considerably as time progresses.