After scoring his third Test century, Ravichandran Ashwin described the sequence of events that led to his promotion up the order calling it “a complete surprise”. The offie also praised Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble for their support and expected to continue in his new-found role of all-rounder.
He has, for long, proved his batting credentials but the expected boost up the order never came. When it did happen, in the first Test against West Indies, Ashwin took the opportunity with both hands. The spinner scored a century first batting besides Virat Kohli and then with Amit Mishra, and then returned in the second innings to take seven wickets.
"Batting at No. 6 was a complete surprise for me," Ashwin told bcci.tv.
Virat [Kohli] told me in the morning of the game that I would be batting at six, and I really liked what he said. He said: 'We trust you, and we want you to bat at six and see how it goes'. I wanted to give something back to the team, and show that I was good batting at No.6.
Ashwin was comfortable batting with Kohli, but after his dismissal slowed down and put together his century off 237 balls. The innings did have its impact on his bowling as he went wicketless in the first innings.
"I wanted to lend some solidity," Ashwin said. "It was quite a tiring innings because I played about 250 balls, and after that to come out and exhibit how I could bowl after a tired innings. I was very pleased with that."
"I always value myself as an all-rounder," he said. "Not like I don't look at myself that way. Batting at six, there is always that many opportunities to score a hundred than when you are batting at eight. So, I have started off well on that note. Batting at No.6, I have managed a five-for as well. I just hope I can go from strength to strength from here."
However, he came back strongly in the second taking seven wickets, two of which he returned to take after Devendra Bishoo and Carlos Brathwaite had delayed the inevitable with a dogged ninth-wicket partnership of around 100 runs. Ashwin was also pleased with his first five-wicket haul outside the subcontinent.
"It has taken more than five years for me to repeat it [take a five-for] outside the subcontinent," he said. "That is something I wanted to break: getting a five-wicket haul away from Asia. That is something I worked earnestly towards and very pleased for myself."
In the first innings, I couldn't get a good spell going because the fast bowlers were bowling really well, he said. "We actually had to short change with them for roles and try to give them a break.
"The speeds were something that was going to challenge us on this wicket, because the ball got softer," Ashwin said. "As the ball got softer and softer, it was very hard to get the ball going. It was very slow and sluggish, and so we needed to keep a tab on the pace, and use the drift pretty well."
Ashwin also praised coach and legendary spinner Anil Kumble for his support and insights during the match. "In the second innings, I was constantly in touch with Anil bhai also about what is that right speeds to be bowling," Ashwin said.
"We were constantly in touch through different occasions of the game. I went wicketless for the first 25-26 overs I bowled in the match, and in the past, it would have definitely troubled me. I am someone who likes to keep getting wickets. I kept on speaking to him about what I was doing right and what I was not doing right. He felt my body was not going through well yesterday because I was a little tired. Also, he told I had to slow down at the crease, gave me different ideas about what lines to bowl to batsmen," he concluded.