Punjab Kings (PBKS) leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin has termed playing under franchise coach Anil Kumble as a "huge blessing". He expressed optimism ahead of the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and claimed that PBKS are confident of doing well this year.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Murugan Ashwin shed light on a variety of topics, one of which was PBKS' preparations in the lead-up to IPL 2021.
"Preparations are going well, we've been in Mumbai for a week or so. We're practicing together as a team. We've played a few scenarios and things are looking good."
With 10 wickets in 9 games at an economy rate of 7.46, Murugan Ashwin was one of PBKS' standout performers in IPL 2020. Since the conclusion of that campaign, the 30-year-old has tasted success with Tamil Nadu, who won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in dominant fashion.
"The last IPL was a very good experience, and I was able to do well. I took the same confidence into domestic cricket. We won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and that was also a great experience. We played in Ahmedabad, which is one of the venues for this year's IPL. That tournament, along with the Vijay Hazare Trophy, gave me confidence and experience which I'm looking to carry into this IPL."
In coach Anil Kumble, who scalped over 950 wickets in international cricket, Murugan Ashwin has one of the greatest spinners of all time to learn from. He is well aware of that fact and has always looked to glean whatever knowledge he can.
"Playing under Anil sir's guidance is a huge blessing for me. I'm just trying to use his rich experience and pick his brains. I interact a lot with him and learn from him. I did this last year also, I learnt a lot and my bowling improved a lot. This year also, I'll be working with him."
My googlies come to me naturally: Murugan Ashwin
T20 cricket has seen a number of developments over the last few years. One notable change has been franchises opting to field two leg-spinners in the playing XI.
In the IPL last year, PBKS played Murugan Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi. The Rajasthan Royals had Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia, while the Royal Challengers Bangalore occasionally elected to use both Yuzvendra Chahal and Adam Zampa.
When asked if he believes this trend will continue for a while, Murugan Ashwin replied in the affirmative and highlighted the impact wrist-spinners can have on a game.
"Leg-spinners bring a lot into the game with their variations. They can extract a lot from the wicket, and we did decently well last year. Why not? It's always good to have leg-spinners who have variations under the belt, they can use their googlies against the left-handers. So that is an added advantage, and I feel that a lot of leg-spinners will be playing for the other teams as well."
The biggest weapon in Murugan Ashwin's arsenal is his googly, which not only has sharp turn at a fast pace but also has unerring accuracy. Although he has been inherently good at the delivery, he insisted that he has spent a lot of time in the nets finetuning its execution.
"My googlies have speed and sharp turn. It comes to me naturally, and it has a lot to do with the action as well - I'm a bit open-chested, so it makes much more easier to bowl. If you know you're good at it, you try to get better at it. So it's a conscious effort to try and enhance your strengths. Seeing the grips for the googlies, and trying to use the crease differently. At practice, you just try to improve regularly and that's what I try to do."
After falling narrowly short of the playoffs last year, PBKS made a number of smart acquisitions in February's player auction.
Riley Meredith, Jhye Richardson and Dawid Malan were the standout purchases in the overseas department, while Murugan Ashwin's state teammate Shahrukh Khan instigated a bidding war before being snapped up by the 2014 finalists.
Under the leadership of KL Rahul, PBKS will look to reach their second IPL final and go all the way this time.