Can Ashwin prove his detractors wrong and bowl India to an overseas victory at Adelaide?
India and Australia both go into the fifth day of the Adelaide Test, each believing they can win. India needs the remaining six Aussie wickets and Australia need another 219 runs to win the Test and go 1-0 up in the series.
For India to win this Test, Ravichandran Ashwin will have to play a stellar role. For all his wonderful records, the one major criticism against him has been that he has failed to deliver overseas.
More often than not, he has been chosen as India’s lead spinner, and often the only spinner in India’s playing XI overseas. But he has failed to deliver as well as he has been expected to. At least that is the perception.
His record in Australia is not great, but many other great spinners like Muttiah Muralitharan too have failed to deliver down under as well. Also, Shane Warne’s record in India isn’t that great either. So, it is a tad unfair to target only Ashwin for his lack of success in overseas conditions.
However, without going into comparisons with other great spinners, it won’t be wrong to say that Ashwin himself would probably be the first person to admit that he needs to perform better overseas. There have been some crucial moments in Indian cricket overseas, where a big performance was required from India’s lead spinner, and he failed to deliver.
The most recent example of such a ‘failure’ was in the fourth Test of India’s five-match series against England at Southampton, where Ashwin was expected to be the destroyer-in-chief, and he spectacularly failed to deliver. It was the far less potent spinner in the opposition camp, Moeen Ali, who outperformed Ashwin by a mile, and India lost the Test by 60 runs. If Ashwin had lived up to his reputation, India could have easily squared the series there.
Fate has presented Ashwin a wonderful opportunity in the very first Test against the Aussies at Adelaide. India has never won the first match of a Test series in Australia, and going into the fifth day, are in a great position to create history.
But as Nathan Lyon told in the media briefing after the fourth day, the pitch has quickened a bit and hence negotiating the fast bowlers has become easier for the batsmen, and only spinners can trouble the batsmen.
Whether his statement is factual or a deliberate ploy to put pressure on his opposite number, the fact remains that India desperately needs a big performance from Ashwin to win the Test.
Lyon has bowled exceptionally well in the test and taken six wickets in the second innings. It is up to Ashwin now to pay it back and in the process, prove his detractors wrong.