Exclusive: Ashwin's strong will is his forte, says coach Subramaniam Filed on February 23, 2021
Ravichandran Ashwin took eight wickets in the second Test against England. (BCCI)

There was nothing remarkable about Ashwin as a spinner when he had joined the Tamil Nadu under 19 camp

It’s not without some irony that Ravichandran Ashwin, who was not even among the top two spinners in the Tamil Nadu under 19 set up, now stands on the cusp of becoming the fastest Indian to take 400 Test wickets.

Having played a match-winning role with eight wickets and a second innings hundred on a raging turner in Chennai, Ashwin (76 Tests, 394 wickets) needs six wickets in the third Test against England to eclipse Anil Kumble, who had joined the 400-wicket club in his 85th Test.

Ashwin is also on the verge of surpassing Richard Hadlee and Dale Steyn to become the second fastest bowler to 400 wickets, as those iconic fast bowlers reached the landmark in their respective 80th Test matches.

Only Muttiah Muralitharan remains untouchable, having taken the 400th of his 800 wickets in just 72 Tests.

Ashwin’s progress to the upper echelons of the game has been remarkable. But there was nothing remarkable about him as a spinner when he had joined the Tamil Nadu under 19 camp.

Ashwin’s turn and guile failed to move Sunil Subramaniam, the former Tamil Nadu left-arm spinner.

“He was never the most talented spinner,” Subramaniam, Ashwin’s coach in that under 19 camp, told Khaleej Times over phone from India.

“When I first saw him in the under 19 camp, you know, I have a system to grade a spinner where I do a lot of tests, consistency test, angles, believe me, he was number three or four in that under 19 camp,” said Subramaniam, who took 285 wickets in 74 first class matches at a brilliant average of 23.53.

But Ashwin, according to Subramaniam, made up for his lack of top-class skills with his never-say-die spirit.

“He was not so skilled. They were far more skilled spinners in that camp. But what he had more than anybody else was his mind. He was mentally far stronger for his age at the under 19 level,” said Subramaniam.

It’s not surprising then that Ashwin, despite struggling with a severe back pain, was able to put up a heroic resistance with the bat for 42 overs with Hanuma Vihari to earn India a famous draw in Sydney last month.

“The whole world can see that now. His strong will is his forte. His skill is certainly there, he is good. But what’s brilliant about him is his mind.”

It’s that mental strength that has now made Ashwin one of greatest Indian spinners of all time.

“I would say, he along with Anil, are the best match-winners in Indian conditions ever. And that’s including Bishan Singh (Bedi), Erapalli Prasanna, Venkat (Srinivas Venkataraghavan) or (Bhagwat) Chandrasekhar, Salim Durani, Vinoo Mankad, Ghulam Ahmed. I include them all. Except one, I think the best spinner India ever had was Subhash Gupte,” said Subramaniam.

Finally, the veteran coach replied when asked if it was among the most defining moments in cricket when Ashwin challenged the world to change its perceptions about ‘Mankading’.

“Yes, absolutely. Can’t agree more with you on this,” Subramaniam said.

“You can’t get the romance and emotions ahead of the laws. (By backing up), batsmen can easily take 10-15 more runs during the course of an innings.

“The preamble of the game is that the spirit should not be broken. But the spirit has been broken by the batsmen by backing up. So Ashwin is spot on. What he did was within the laws of the game!”


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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