Ravichandran Ashwin feels that while there will be unavoidable calls from the masses to pick players after a temporary IPL burst, it is important for individuals to encounter the ups and downs of first-class cricket to toughen themselves up. Ashwin further heaped praise on Ruturaj Gaikwad.
Up until half a decade into the inception of the Indian Premier League, the route for players to crack the Indian national team was simple: age group cricket, first-class cricket, ‘A’ side and finally the national team. However, the IPL has come as a boon for several unrecognized cricketers to crack the national side through a shortcut. The likes of the Pandya brothers and Bumrah, despite not boasting of exceptional domestic records, were fast-tracked into the national team on the back of solid and consistent IPL performances and recently, mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, too, was handed a maiden call-up despite not having played any domestic cricket for close to two years.
Unsurprisingly, cries to pick impressive uncapped players for the national team have grown over the years and this season, those calls have been louder than ever. However, according to Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, the role of first-class cricket should not be undermined. Ashwin, who boasted of a world-class first-class record before his breakthrough season with CSK, stated that it is important for youngsters to play FC cricket and experience ups and downs in order to toughen themselves up before stepping foot onto international cricket.
“People usually watch the IPL and start vouching for the national selection of players but first-class cricket is a crunch phase,” Ashwin said in E23 of his ‘Hello Dubaiahh’ show in YouTube.
“It is about the grind. International cricket is not just about ability. It is not just about playing an eye-catching stroke or a match-winning innings, it’s about how a player deals with the ups and downs. So players showing consistency in first-class cricket through the years is important.”
One such player who has shone in both domestic cricket and the IPL is CSK’s Ruturaj Gaikwad, who last week capped his debut IPL season off with a hat-trick of half-centuries. Ashwin described Gaikwad as a ‘delightful’ strokemaker and recalled a game last year where he was awestruck by the right-hander’s batting.
“Ruturaj Gaikwad played beautifully. There was a surety about his batting. Rayudu was batting alongside him and the runs were not coming easy, but Gaikwad did not put a foot wrong. I played against him in a Deodhar Trophy game last year and I was just awestruck by the ease in his batting. It was delightful to watch.”
In the show, Ashwin, a part of Delhi Capitals this season, spoke about the tactical shocks his side encountered in the second half of their campaign. The 34-year-old claimed that despite doing their homework to perfection, DC were caught off guard by KKR’s move to use Narine as a floater at No.5 and SRH’s move to drop Bairstow and open with Saha.
“Delhi Capitals had an interesting situation. Prior to the Kolkata Knight Riders clash, we had planned everything but we did not expect Sunil Narine to show up. We did not expect him to play, but more importantly we did not expect him to come in at No.5 and whack the ball mercilessly. Similarly, we didn’t expect Saha to open the batting against us, we were pretty sure that we would come up against Bairstow.”