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T20 World Cup – R Ashwin

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Living in the present, embracing challenges, understanding circumstances, preparing to perform at short notice, completing circles of life and understanding life patterns. R Ashwin could’ve been mistaken for a motivational speaker, but he was merely echoing his thought processes and how he’s approaching his cricket and life at 35.

On Wednesday, against Afghanistan, Ashwin was back in India’s blues for the first time in four years, a moment he said he was looking forward to for a while without allowing frustration or circumstances around his non-selection affecting him. He performed creditably too, taking 2 for 14 off his four overs that dented Afghanistan through the middle overs. It gave India bite and the kind of control they lacked in their first two matches of the T20 World Cup.

“The news of me being selected for the World Cup was heartening, I had fun hearing the news in terms of enjoying myself and the gratification of what I wanted to achieve,” he said ahead of India’s clash against Scotland on Friday. “I had special dreams getting into the World Cup, wanting to do special things for the team and after a point in time, trying to prove a point, whether right or wrong, not to anybody else but to yourself.

“Unfortunately, after the first two losses, I did feel a bit low about it, it wasn’t special, it never is when you lose game. Maybe our chance of qualification took a bit of a dent but after yesterday’s (Wednesday) win (over Afghanistan), we still do have our fingers crossed and hope things go right. But yes, barring that, it was a special night. Every single delivery that I wanted to execute fell in place.”

Ashwin fell out of favour in 2017 at a time when wristspin was the buzzword around the Indian team management as Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav emerged as India’s two frontline spin options in limited-overs cricket. It was around the time Ashwin was enjoying a prolific red-ball form and peaking as a Test match bowler.

At first, his non-selection was termed as “rest” before it soon became evident the selectors and the team management were looking in different directions. Ashwin believes he used the time wisely to refine his skillsets that he’s now exhibiting at the T20 World Cup. Having put in the hard yards during his time away, Ashwin now hopes perception around finger spin changes.

“I can’t say circle has come around, but the perception of finger spin needs to change,” he said. “Ever since 2017, where I was going through a very good phase of my Test career, I felt like I was bowling amazing stock balls and didn’t require anything else. But like I said, the circle stops and that Champions Trophy final (Ashwin’s previous white-ball game before the Afghanistan outing) was one of those stations where I had to halt and think about my cricket.

“Ever since then, I’ve evolved as a T20 bowler, I’ve bowled a lot more many deliveries that are so subtle that people keep terming them as carrom balls, off spin and arm balls. I’m trying to create different angles to create different seam positions. The ball to dismiss Gulbadin Naib (on Wednesday) was anything but a carrom ball.

“I have worked on it, and I have got so many options [now] than what I had at that time [2017]. When I bowl to a right-hander, I think like a left-arm spinner or a legspinner, and when I bowl to a left-hander, I think like an offspinner. The thinking creates intent and intent translates into practice. Three is a lot of work that has gone there, it’s just that the consensus on what I do that needs to change.”

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R Ashwin: 'Staying humble through good periods is something I have firmly embraced'

R Ashwin: ‘Staying humble through good periods is something I have firmly embraced’

Explaining the science of spin, analysing revolutions or dip, his loading and alignment with the crease are all aspects Ashwin thoroughly enjoys explaining. As much as he delved into the nuances of the game, Ashwin said making peace with circumstances around his non-selection in white-ball cricket, without losing the hustle, helped him find a way to evolve.

“I believe life is a circle, for some people it’s a small one, for some it’s large,” he said. “It’s definitely not in our hands. For me, understanding patterns in my life and career is something I’ve done very well over the last couple of years. Whenever I’ve had a very good s stretch of form, I’ve had deep trenches, some very long periods of lull which I don’t want to read too much into. That’s a pattern I’ve embraced.

“Staying humble through good periods of success is a statement lot of people make, but I’ve firmly embraced it and lived it. Shane Warne once said you experience success 33% of times in your career. Sachin [Tendulkar] has also echoed that at some stage, so who am I, I am no different.

“The easiest way to cope with it, to go through a professional circle like that is to keep preparing keep working hard, expecting an opportunity to turn up at your doorstep one day and when it happens you have all the options to break open doors, latches and locks. That’s what life is all about, so live for those days and keep preparing like that day will come.

“It’s easy to lose hope and motivation, come to those doors, hide behind it and keep complaining. That’s something I will definitely not do, because for me it’s not about what the game has given me. It’s about what I’ve given to the game and how much I enjoy playing the game. For me, if you put three stumps anywhere and ask me to play game at this stage of my life, I’d do it most times.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Shakib ruled out of Chattogram Test against Pakistan

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Allrounder could miss entire series after failing to recover from hamstring injury

Shakib Al Hasan has been ruled out of Bangladesh’s first Test against Pakistan in Chattogram, which begins on Friday. It was, however, an inevitable decision from the BCB’s medical team after Shakib apparently failed to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained during the T20 World Cup.

Bangladesh’s chief selector Minhajul Abedin said that Shakib might take longer to recover, which could mean that he is entirely out of the Test series against Pakistan.

“Shakib’s hamstring injury hasn’t improved,” Abedin said. “Shakib needs further rehabilitation. Our physiotherapist is constantly taking care of him. We understood that he wouldn’t be available for the first Test. We are also not sure of his availability for the second Test. The physio will let us know soon. We haven’t called up a replacement since we picked the 16-man squad knowing Shakib’s condition.”

Shakib missed the last two matches of Bangladesh’s T20 World Cup campaign, as well as the three T20Is in the series against Pakistan. Bangladesh have grown accustomed to playing Tests without Shakib even after his return from suspension this year. Shakib appeared in only one Test in the World Test Championship, against West Indies in February, a game in which he got injured midway. Shakib also played against Zimbabwe in the Harare Test in July.

Bangladesh are already without Tamim Iqbal in this Test series due to a second thumb fracture after he had seemingly recovered from the first one. Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam are also out with injuries for the Chattogram Test. Taskin hurt his hand during the third T20I against Pakistan while Shoriful sustained a back injury during the second game.

Bangladesh’s Test series against Pakistan is their first in the new WTC cycle. They are also scheduled to play against Sri Lanka and India at home next year, apart from tours to South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand to round off their WTC schedule.



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Recent Match Report – Heat Wmn vs StrikersWmn Eliminator 2021/22

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Report

Legspinner takes the best WBBL figures of all-time to end Brisbane Heat’s season

Adelaide Strikers 2 for 118 (Mack 50*, McGrath 38*) beat Brisbane Heat 8 for 114 (Hancock 40, Wellington 5-8) by eight wickets

Amanda-Jade Wellington waltzed through Brisbane Heat with the best spell in WBBL history to send Adelaide Strikers into the Challenger against Melbourne Renegades after an eight-wicket over Brisbane Heat in the Eliminator at Adelaide Oval.
Wellington took 5 for 8 to create a new WBBL record, and became the fifth bowler to claim 100 WBBL wickets, in her 100th match, as Heat capitulated to post 8 for 114 after being sent in to bat. They were in danger of failing to reach three figures but Nicola Hancock played an extraordinary cameo making 40 off 26 balls from No.9.
The in-form Katie Mack piloted the chase perfectly with her fifth unbeaten half-century in seven innings while Tahlia McGrath helped finish it in style with some superb striking. The pair combined for an unbeaten 71-run partnership to steer the home side to victory with 21 balls to spare.

Wellington bamboozled the Heat top order with sharp spin and exceptional control. After Megan Schutt and Darcie Brown held Heat to their worst powerplay of the tournament, Wellington took two wickets in the three balls in the seventh over to sink Heat further into the mire. Grace Harris played one of her worst innings of the tournament scoring 17 from 27 balls before running past a beautifully bowled leg break from Wellington to be stumped by a mile. Striker captain Tahlia McGrath put a slip in and Wellington found the outside edge of Mikayla Hinkley two balls later.

Jess Jonassen was equally flummoxed by the ball spinning in, chopping on in the ninth over trying to pull a length ball that zipped back sharply. Wellington took two more in the 11th over to become the fifth bowler in WBBL history. Laura Kimmince holed out in the deep trying to slog-sweep with Bridget Patterson taking a sensational diving catch. Georgia Voll spooned a catch to point off the next ball.

When Anneke Bosch fell to Brown the Heat slumped to 7 for 52. But Hancock salvaged the wreck with an outstanding cameo of 40 from 26 balls. She smacked six fours and one six. Nadine de Klerk hung with her bravely after copping a nasty blow on the knee by a stray throw while running between the wickets. De Klerk cracked the last ball of the innings for four to finish 18 not out as Heat clattered 51 runs from the last five overs.

Heat needed early wickets but Jonassen opted not to bowl any spin in the powerplay and Strikers were able to get away to a solid start. Dane van Niekerk was the only wicket to fall in the first six overs but she struck two boundaries. Poonam Yadav was finally introduced in the eighth over and trapped Laura Wolvaardt lbw. But Mack was masterful and flawless in her execution against both pace and spin. She never got bogged down at any stage. She laid the platform for McGrath to power to the finish. The captain thumped a towering six off Poonam and followed it up with drilled drive straight of long-off. The pair cruised to victory with more than three overs to spare. Mack struck the winning wins with a lofted on drive to bring up yet another half-century.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Match Preview – India vs New Zealand, New Zealand in India 2021/22, 1st Test

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Big Picture

India now have the chance to play New Zealand in their own conditions. New Zealand now have the chance to prove they aren’t just WTC champions but also the best all-conditions Test team in the world.

This should be one of the most eagerly anticipated series of recent times, but just look at who won’t be lining up in Kanpur even though they’re fully fit: Kohli, Rohit, Pant, Bumrah, Shami, Boult, de Grandhomme. It’s the reality of these times. There’s endless, wall-to-wall cricket, most of it within biosecure bubbles, and, at some point, everyone needs a break.

It won’t have the star power it might otherwise command, but this still promises to be an enthralling series. After an England tour during which India’s XI mostly had room only for one of them, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be back doing what they do best, and their threat is likely to be magnified by the presence of Axar Patel in a three-man spin attack.
The challenge that this India attack – the aforementioned spinners plus their quicks – presents in Indian conditions may well be among the biggest Test cricket has thrown at batters through its history. New Zealand, though, have quality and experience running through their top five, and in Kane Williamson a world-class force whose record in India doesn’t reflect his immense skill against spin.
While it isn’t yet clear what shade of subcontinental this Green Park surface will be, it’ll be of a kind that New Zealand haven’t experienced for quite a while. As good as their fast bowlers are, their magnificent recent records have owed quite a bit to the green carpets that have been rolled out for them wherever they’ve gone. Their last nine Tests have all been played either at home or in England, and Kyle Jamieson, who has played all his eight Tests in this period, has a bowling average of – wait for it – 14.17.
How well he, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee – who has an outstanding record in Asia but hasn’t played in India since 2012 – adapt to Indian pitches might hold as much of a key to how many WTC points New Zealand take home from this tour as the performance of their spinners. On the latter front New Zealand might be better equipped than at any time since the days of Daniel Vettori, with Ajaz Patel having played significant roles in Test wins in Abu Dhabi (twice) and Colombo, and with Will Somerville having featured alongside him in two of those triumphs.

And while India will start as heavy favourites as they always do at home, their batting line-up won’t wear its usual impregnable look, with Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant absent; with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane potentially rusty in addition to not having been in the best of form for close to two years; and with one or potentially two debutants set to feature.

In this line-up’s inexperience might lie New Zealand’s biggest opportunity.

Form guide

India WLWDL (last five Tests, most recent first)
New Zealand WWDWW

In the spotlight

The last time New Zealand made a full tour of India, Ajinkya Rahane scored a career-best 188 in the third Test and “>lifted his average to 51.37 after 29 matches. Now, after 78 Tests, that number has dropped below 40, and a number of young, hungry middle-order batters are breathing down his neck. Against that backdrop, and as the stand-in captain and experienced pillar in a largely inexperienced top six, this could be a very important Test in his career.
Ajaz Patel comes into this series with 13 wickets at 29.61 against Pakistan in the UAE, and nine wickets at 26.88 in Sri Lanka. Those are excellent numbers, but bowling in India, as even Shane Warne and Muthiah Muralidaran discovered, isn’t the same as it is in the rest of Asia. It’s the biggest test for a visiting spinner, but if he can bowl a lot of overs and bowl them with control, the rest of the New Zealand attack will have an axis to bowl around.

Team news

Rahane has confirmed Shreyas Iyer will make his debut on Thursday. He hasn’t ruled out playing another debutant in Suryakumar Yadav as well, though, with India not yet revealing if they will play five specialist batters – as they have done in most of their recent home Tests – or six. They may have a difficult decision to make on which seamer to leave out, with a third being unlikely at a venue not reputed to offer too much pace or carry.

India (probable): 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Axar Patel/Suryakumar Yadav, 10 and 11 two out of Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.

The big question for New Zealand is the composition of their attack – two spinners or three, and if two, which two; and if only two seamers, which one to leave out. Will Young seems likely to take the opening slot vacated by Devon Conway’s injury, with Tom Blundell taking the keeping gloves in the first Test of the post-BJ Watling era.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Will Young, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Tom Blundell (wk), 7 Mitchell Santner/Kyle Jamieson, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Neil Wagner, 10 Will Somerville, 11 Ajaz Patel.

Pitch and conditions

Ashwin and Jadeja shared 16 wickets between them the last time India met New Zealand in a Test match in Kanpur. In his pre-match press conference, Rahane didn’t go into a whole lot of detail about what he expected from this Green Park pitch, but he made it clear that India, like every other team in the WTC, would look to “make the most of home advantage”. It would be no surprise, therefore, if both teams picked three spinners.

Stats and trivia

Quotes

“When we play on spin-friendly wickets, it is a challenge even for Indian batsmen. But as batsmen once you are in you have to make it count. It is a challenge and we accept that. We are not bothered about our runs, but as a team we want to win each and every game.”
Ajinkya Rahane says India’s batters don’t mind it if their averages suffer in the team’s quest for Test wins

“I’ve got Wags (Neil Wagner) and Timmy (Tim Southee) here, so that’ll be good to bounce ideas of them, to get their expertise on how to bowl here. It’s certainly going to be a different challenge to what we get back home but really looking forward to it.”
Kyle Jamieson looks forward to the biggest challenge of his career so far

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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