R Ashwin: ‘I had to literally rewire and make a mental switch’

After returning just one wicket in the first innings, R Ashwin came roaring back in England’s second dig in Ranchi, with a five-wicket haul that saw the visitors bowled out for 145. Given the new ball for the first time this series, Ashwin dented England’s top order with the wickets of Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope and Joe Root and then came back to clean up the tail.

Ashwin said he had to make a ‘mental switch’ in his approach on the Ranchi surface, focussing more on getting the ball to spin with the pitch not offering as much bounce.

“So actually I had to go back and rewire the way I had to think about the game,” Ashwin told the host broadcaster after the third day. “I am someone who comes over the top, comes down on the ball. I like the ball to drop on the pitch.

“Somehow when I come to the eastern part of the country, I find that there is not enough bite out of the surface. The bounce is literally almost near the shin height, if I can say that.

“So I had to really go a lot of side spin. I had to hammer into the pitch for the first part of the spell,” Ashwin said. “And later from the other side, I felt like there was a little bit more purchase. I had to literally rewire and it was a mental switch I had to make.”

Ashwin did not use his trademark carrom ball for long periods, but eventually foxed Ben Foakes when he did bring it out, as the England keeper offered Ashwin a return catch off a leading edge.

“For some strange reason, my knee has been acting up. So it just takes me 10-12 balls to warm up. But I had a bit of warm up before getting in as well. So once I got my length right, that is when I wanted to really try it,” Ashwin said. “I didn’t want to give extra runs because they are chasing last. So every single run to chase is a big bonus.”

Playing his 99th Test, Ashwin notched his 35th Test five-wicket haul – the joint-highest for India along with Anil Kumble. He also went past Kumble for the most wickets taken in India in Tests. But Ashwin said the personal milestones fade in comparison to a team victory.

“I mean you can pick all the wickets you want, you can perform all that you want, a team win is [like] nothing [else]. I mean it’s the best thing that can happen to a cricketer. To in a Test match at the end of 4-5 days, the feeling is surreal. I would like to have that feeling tomorrow and Ro [Rohit Sharma] and [Yashasvi] Jaiswal have started really well, so hopefully they can carry on from here.”

Ashwin didn’t have a five-wicket haul throughout this series before today, but delivered probably when India needed him the most, having conceded a 46-run first-innings lead to England and staring at the possibility of a steep chase. But in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah, who has arguably been India’s most influential bowler this series, Ashwin’s efforts helped keep their target under 200.

Rohit and Jaiswal, the India openers, took the hosts to 40 for no loss at the close of play on the third day, leaving the team 152 away from sealing the series.

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