Ravichandran Ashwin (left) is now one of the fastest growing digital content creators. (Twitter)
Dubai - Ashwin wanted to do 'something meaningful with the time' and hence came up with the idea of starting a YouTube channel named after himself
By Chandresh Narayanan
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Published: Sun 18 Oct 2020, 12:12 AM
Hello Dubaiahh! You would probably hear someone from South India ask you this question if you are based in Dubai. Now fancy hearing this from one of the best-known cricketers from India? Well that is what Ravichandran Ashwin, India's champion off-spinner has been asking of late to everyone at large from his hotel room in Dubai. Ashwin is right now one of the fastest growing digital content creators amongst cricketers. This is apart from his exploits on the field during the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2020 for Delhi Capitals. He has had everything this season an injury on the field, missed out a few games and has come back strongly picking up wickets. This has backed up the fiery opening spells of pace pair of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. While we all expect Ashwin to create havoc on the field with the ball, it is his digital avatar that has created ripples on YouTube. He now has around 260,000 subscribers. His delivery of content ranges from match previews to interviews of cricketers/film stars/umpires/cricket personalities.
This all started during the prolonged period of lockdown in India when Ashwin, like many others, were forced to stay at home. He wanted to do 'something meaningful with the time' and hence came up with the idea of starting a YouTube channel named after himself. An initiative which he has kickstarted and planned all by himself. "I am very creative and felt like I could spread a lot of positivity through the lockdown," Ashwin said in a chat with this writer. "We are doing well. I must say it feels good," he added. The initial episodes were based mostly around going down the memory lane, but then he started also interviewing fellow cricketers. In his first batch he interviewed the likes of India's Test specialists Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari, former India batsman Suresh Raina, India all-rounder Vijay Shankar among others. He also interviewed or chatted with India's white ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma and India captain Virat Kohli. Amongst cricketers, his chat with Kohli has been the most popular. Ashwin's easy-going approach while interviewing has helped break the image that people may have had about him. "I am fun loving but people have tended to just brand me as intense etc because I understand and love talking about the game," recalled Ashwin. He has also interviewed New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, former Sri Lankan stars Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara and Russel Arnold. His chats with former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar, Anil Kumble, Venkatesh Prasad and Javagal Srinath have also been well received. He has interviewed some non-cricket personalities too including badminton legend and super coach Pullela Gopichand, apart from movie stars R Madhavan and Vishnu Vishal. Before the IPL got underway, Ashwin also ran a series on Tamil Nadu's Ranji history and its future. This series saw a number of former and current Tamil Nadu cricketers including Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Sridharan Sriram and Abhinav Mukund sharing their thoughts. There was even a quiz contest on the channel to connect with the fans. "It's a great tool for me to enjoy myself and bring my character out," reckoned Ashwin. When action moved to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the IPL, Ashwin started his series 'Hello Dubaiahh''. He first started interviewing fellow cricketers including former South African captain Faf du Plessis, Afghanistan's champion leg-spinner Rashid Khan, Dinesh Karthik and Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting. Ashwin revealed that there has not been a single interview that has been tough and has everyone has been good thus far. But what really caught the attention of everyone was his series of match previews. His fellow panelists on this preview series are South African cricket team's analyst Prasanna Agoram and Tamil stand up comic Praveen Kumar. They get together to preview games in fun style and that too in Tamil. It has really gained a lot of traction and presented a different facet of Ashwin. "Everyone does pre match shows with all numbers and talk so many critical points. I am sure you can put them out with good humour and make it watchable and let people enjoy themselves "They can consume it with a lot of fun, so many non-cricketing nerds watch the IPL and they must also be able to consume stuff and not just be too mainstream," added Ashwin. He has consciously kept the content in the preview in his mother tongue, Tamil. "I do it for fun. I will do more in English. But genuinely there is not much sports info for the Tamil audience," opined Ashwin. His interview skills have caught the attention of a lot of people. A future career as a commentator and television presenter was widely spoken about for the 34-year-old off-spinner. But the current Indian Test star says he has not learnt from anyone specific, instead believes there is 'nothing to learn, if you can listen and ask it helps'. The over-riding reason for the whole initiative is to keep things positive. "You constantly have people criticising and talking negatively. I wanted to make it positive," signed off Ashwin. Chandresh Narayanan is an Indian cricket author and broadcaster