File photo of India offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin. (AFP)
Ishant Sharma has been the exclusive recipient of all the flak for India's two defeats in the ODI series against Australia so far, with the Mohali loss hurting Indian emotions to the T. But the Delhi paceman is not alone in the firing line; offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin stands right beside him with an equally futile run so far.
Ishant's 30-run over in Mohali cost India a 2-1 lead, which is now enjoyed by the Australians. It was defeat from a winning situation that made Ishant the subject of sever rebuke; but he's not the lone culprit in India's lifeless bowling display so far.
Offspinner Ashwin, who was talked of as India's spin spearhead before the series with 61 ODIs under his belt, has returned figures of 2 for 55 (10), 1 for 50 (8) and 0 for 58 (9) so far, leaving skipper MS Dhoni searching for cover to complete his quota of 10 overs. On the same run-laden tracks, left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja has managed to keep a tight lid on the scoring, which makes Ashwin's figures look much poorer.
Jadeja has concentrated on keeping things simple by bowling a tight, wicket-to-wicket line and cramping the batsmen for room. At Pune and Mohali, Jadeja registered figures of 1 for 35 (10) and 1 for 31 (10). Meanwhile, Ashwin has erred on both line as well as length, guilty of bowling short and giving the batsmen enough room to maneuver him easily.
It was all well for Ashwin bowling on the turning tracks during the Test drubbing India handed Australia earlier this year, but when it comes to bowling on batting tracks, Ashwin has been found out.
Talking to The Indian Express, legendary India offspinner Erapalli Prasanna said Ashwin no longer holds any mystery. "Ashwin doesn't have the ability to bowl to his field. You can try many things but you have to ensure that at least 60 per cent of the times it must work. Having just four fielders outside the circle does not give a spinner much room to experiment but under pressure he is trying too many different things, losing his line and length in the process. He has to learn to bowl to his field, because he no longer holds any mystery," Prasanna said.
ICC's new rule of using different balls from both ends also seems to be making life difficult for Ashwin, but Prasanna doesn't agree with that. "New balls from both ends shouldn't be a factor. We played under the same rules in the World Series Cricket in Australia in 1985 and won the tournament. The spinners had laid the foundations of our wins, though they were very well supported by the medium pacers. The first three matches in the ongoing series were played on batting-friendly pitches. It would be wise to stick to the basics in such conditions," he said.
Also interesting to see will be BCCI's assessment of the performance of team's bowling coach Joe Dawes, who should also be held as much responsible for the failure as the bowlers themselves.