Spin bowling is one of the most difficult arts in the game of cricket and the Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is a master at it. He has been at the peak of his abilities in the last few years and showcased some of the finest spin bowling the world has ever seen.
He recently achieved the record of being the fastest Indian bowler to 200 Test wickets and the second fastest overall. The 30-year old has been the most prolific bowler for India across all formats off late and the Indian team is doing wonders with his presence.
This is especially apparent in Test cricket, where he has won a number of matches for India with his masterful bowling. He even recently became the player with most number of Man of the Series awards from the country taking his tally to a total of 6.
It is always a sheer delight for any cricket fan to watch him in operation with his wonderful variations which have made him perhaps the best spinner of the modern era. He has a bag full of tricks which he uses to run through the opposition.
Here are the 5 different types of deliveries that Ashwin bowls.
This is the most conventional delivery that Ashwin bowls which turns from off to leg for a right-handed batsman. Unlike the most other off-spinners who use both the index as well as the middle finger, he uses only the index finger to deliver the ball. There are two variants of his off-spinners, one that has more over-spin and the other with more side-spin.
The over-spin is used mostly when he tosses the ball up and above the batsman’s eye-line to induce a lofted drive. The revolutions on the ball are more towards the fine leg/leg slip and bounces more as compared to the other one which catches the top edge more often than not and ends up in the fielder’s hands.
On the other hand, the side-spin is bowled with a bit more pace by undercutting the ball and the revolutions are more towards the square leg. Many times, he mixes this delivery up with the other one to fox the batsman with pace and traps him in front of the wicket.
#2 Carom ball
Also known as the knuckleball, this delivery was first introduced in the game by the Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis. Ashwin has made a very good use of this delivery especially against the tail-enders who fail to pick up the turn that goes in the other direction as opposed to the conventional off-spin.
He uses his middle finger to flick the ball from the right part of it and the ball goes from leg to off for a right-hander. The batsmen who are not so sound in technique against the spinners find it extremely hard to judge this ball.
There are two very famous incidents of Ashwin dismissing the batsmen with a carom ball. One was when he bowled Hashim Amla from around the wicket in the World T20 2014. The ball pitched outside the line of leg stump and turned to hit the off-stump as Amla was left stranded.
The other one was when he trapped AB de Villiers in the Nagpur Test in 2015. He barraged the batsman with a series of off-spinners and got him accustomed to that delivery and suddenly pulled out the carom ball which found de Villiers plumb in front of the wickets.
This delivery is intended to produce more bounce rather than turn and is probably the most difficult to execute. The seam of the ball remains straight in the flight and when it lands on the seam rather than the lather, it produces more bounce and less turn.
Similar to over-spin, this one is also flighted in the air and lands near the batsman’s feet. The batsman often confuses it with the off-spin and expects the turn, but only manages to edge the ball to either slip or the fielders close in.
Because it produces more bounce with flight, there are chances that the batsman might go for the big shot and the extra height produces the top edge.
The slider is the Indian bowler’s speciality with the new ball. Very often in T20s, the skipper MS Dhoni likes to start the bowling with Ashwin and as the new ball does not turn much, the bowler comes up with sliders.
This delivery is like an out-swinger from a fast bowler but with lesser pace. The seam stays towards the first slip for a right-hander and the ball drifts away from the batsman. The pace of the delivery is on the higher side in comparison to his usual off-spinners which produces more movement in the air.
Quite often on surfaces where there is assistance for spinners more than for fast bowlers, he takes the new ball to put the opposition under pressure right from the start. As the new ball has a more pronounced seam, it aids to grip the ball better and the sliders are a very threatening option during those times.
Though the right-hander is primarily an off-spinner, he does have skills to bowl leg-spin too. To confuse the batsmen, he produces the leg-spin at times out of nowhere. He hasn’t used too much of this in his career so far, but it is present in his armoury.
From continuously bowling off-spinners, he turns up to become a leg-spinner and uses the wrists to turn the ball away from the right-handers. Mostly, he bowls this when the day’s play is about to end in a Test match and the batsman is looking to defend his wicket.
The sudden leg-spin might light up the batsman’s eyes and he might be tempted to go for the big shot. As he develops the skills with each passing game, we might see more of the leg-spin from Ashwin.