The most talked about “leave” down the leg side has been credited to the 36-year-old feisty off spinner cum lower order batter from Tamil Nadu in this tournament.
Showing timely presence of mind Ashwin allowed what was supposed to be the last ball from Pakistan left arm spinner Nawaz Mohammed go past him down the leg without trying to swat it.
Ashwin’s decision to ignore that ball earned a crucial wide run for the Indian team which levelled the scores of the teams at 159 each in the campaign opener at the Melbourne Cricket Ground here on October 23.
This was followed by a scoop shot off the last legal ball of the game by Ashwin with a straight bat over the in-fielders to take India home to a sensational, come-from-behind four-wicket victory over their arch-rivals in front of 93,000-odd spectators
Earlier, the tall bowler, who has taken 69 wickets in 63 T20 International since his debut in June 2010 against Zimbabwe at Harare, conceded 23 runs in three wicket-less overs.
“When India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey was asked at a subsequent press conference what conversation did the management have with Ashwin before he went out to bat,” he said, adding: “It is the other way around. When it comes to Ashwin, it is him who tells us that this is what I am going to do. It is just the way he is.”
Against the Netherlands in India’s next match at the Sydney Cricket Ground on October 27, Ashwin grabbed 2-12 to help restrict the opposition to 123 for 9 chasing India’s 179 for 2.
Then came Ashwin’s third-worst performance ever in a T20I when he was hit for 43 runs in four overs against South Africa on a fast bowler’s track in Perth. He had conceded 48 runs for a single wicket in his second T20I way back in June 2010.
In only one other game had he given away more than 40 runs in his quota of overs, against Australia at Rajkot when he got hammered for 41 without a single wicket to his name.
The senior spinner could have got another wicket too against South Africa, that of Aiden Markram, but the catch was put down by Vira Kohli in the deep.
Ashwin’s cameo of 13 not out off 6 balls, inclusive of a six and a four, which proved important in the end against Bangladesh in the rain-hit match at the Adelaide Oval, as India won by five runs by the DLS method.
Ashwin has an overall Economy Rate of 6.88, which is impressive, while he has a strike rate of just over 20 with the ball and an average of 23.5 runs per wicket.
His batting stats in T20Is is also not bad, aided by several not outs, as he has an average of
Now tomorrow he will be up against Zimbabwe for the first time in more than ten years in what could be his final T20I against the African nation.
Ashwin was clearly not a preferred bowler in white ball cricket under the regime of Kohli and Ravi Shastri (head coach) after a flop show with the ball (0-70 in 10 overs) against Pakistan in the final of the 50-over ICC Champions Trophy against Pakistan on June 18, 2017.
He did play two more ODIs in the West Indies immediately afterwards and one isolated T20I against the Caribbean team the next year but was in the wilderness in white ball cricket for four years till he forced his way back in the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 in the UAE.
He has played only two ODIs since mid-2016, against South Africa in the latter’s backyard in 2022.
In the UAE last year in the T20 World Cup Ashwin was not fielded against Pakistan and New Zealand but then got to play in three subsequent matches, against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia, till India made their exit before reaching the semis.
Since then he has been in and out of the T20 playing eleven but the team management, with skipper Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid at the helm, has kept faith with him and included him in the eleven for four straight matches in Australia.
He was named even as a lone front line spinner in the game against South Africa when Axar Patel was left out. Third spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, significantly, has not played in a single tie here.
Ashwin, who was part of the 2011 World Cup winning team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni as a back-up for Harbhajan Singh, has now perhaps his last chance to finish as a member of the World T20 Cup winning team too if India go all the way.
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