Tamil Nadu leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin has expressed happiness about the fact that a number of players from the state will take part in the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). He also opened up about Tamil Nadu's triumph in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which was conducted in January this year.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Murugan Ashwin, who will play for KL Rahul's Punjab Kings in IPL 2021, shared his thoughts on a number of topics.
Tamil Nadu made it to the final of the 2019 Syed Mushtaq Trophy, but fell agonizingly short by 1 run to Karnataka. In the 2021 edition of the tournament, Dinesh Karthik's side went all the way, vanquishing Baroda in the final at Ahmedabad.
When asked about the differences between the two campaigns, Murugan Ashwin stated that the side was better prepared this time and thanked the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association for their unrelenting support.
"Preparations made a huge difference. We played a lot of cricket on the centre wicket. Huge thanks to TNCA, because they provided floodlights for domestic preparation as well. It made a huge impact going into the tournament. Our preparations were spot-on, in terms of match practice and centre-wicket scenarios."
"The sessions went very well, and we started much before the tournament. Yes, we fell at the final hurdle last year but this time, the clarity was spot-on and we didn't. It was a great experience that gave me a lot of satisfaction. It was a dream come true. And hopefully we can continue our good form in white-ball cricket in the future as well."
Murugan Ashwin scalped 10 wickets in 8 games at an economy rate of 6.93 in the 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. When asked about the difference in quality between the domestic T20 tournament and the IPL, the Chennai native highlighted the importance of dedicated preparation.
"I don't know how to rate it that way, I think what matters is how well-prepared you are for each tournament. You can see domestic players featuring in the IPL as well, and of course there are international stars as well. Although the standard is a bit more, your preparation is the thing that makes the biggest difference. That is what I concentrate on."
"Playing alongside these cricketers has been a wonderful experience" - Murugan Ashwin
13 players who feature for Tamil Nadu in domestic cricket are part of IPL 2021 franchises - Ravichandran Ashwin, Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar, Murugan Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy, M Siddharth, R Sai Kishore, C Hari Nishaanth, N Jagadeesan, Shahrukh Khan, T Natarajan, Washington Sundar and Sandeep Warrier.
Apart from Tamil Nadu, only Punjab (12), Mumbai (12), Uttar Pradesh (11) and Karnataka (11) have double-digit representation in IPL 2021. When asked about the same, Murugan Ashwin pointed out that learning is inevitable while playing alongside a plethora of stars.
"It's heartening to know that there are so many players from Tamil Nadu who've made it to the IPL level. I think 13 players from the state will play in this year's IPL. We share a good rapport amongst ourselves and we interact a lot. You are bound to learn some things from the other individuals as well."
"It's a healthy relationship to have, and anything which can rub onto the other person - thinking, discussion about the opponents, etc - will be beneficial. Playing alongside these cricketers has been a wonderful experience, and hopefully they also do well in the IPL."
Before joining the Punjab Kings, Murugan Ashwin turned out for the Rising Pune Supergiant, the Delhi Daredevils and the Royal Challengers Bangalore. When asked about the best cricketing advice he has received, the 30-year-old revealed what he has learnt while playing in the IPL.
"I can't pick a single piece of advice. But this is my sixth year in the IPL, and each year I've tried to learn from the international players in the league by watching them go about their business. I've gained experience by playing matches and trying to learn. My mantra will always be 'Try to get better each and every day, try to be as disciplined as possible, and the rest will take care of itself.' That's the only thing I look to do."
Needless to say, Murugan Ashwin's family has been his pillar of strength. He signed off by poignantly pointing out the same.
"My family is my biggest support, with the amount of confidence they give. If you have a bad day, the first people you go and meet is your family. Generally, your family plays a huge role in your mental well-being, and I am no different."
Murugan Ashwin was one of the Punjab Kings' standout perfomers in IPL 2020, and he'll look to continue from where he left off this year. KL Rahul's side kick off their campaign on 12th April with a clash against the Rajasthan Royals.