Ashwin’s challenging series
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Now, with only four fielders permitted on the boundary rope, off spinners simply cannot afford to give batsmen room to free their arms. Ashwin himself discovered this in the second ODI in Kochi, when Samit Patel spoiled his figures by tonking him for three fours and a six in his final over, twice hitting him with the turn and twice giving himself room to go against it.
Consequently, the already prevalent tendency among off spinners to protect the leg side and bowl straight will only grow more exaggerated. Zimbabwe's Prosper Utseya probably does this better than anyone else. His bowling average, over a career spanning 139 ODIs, is a modest 45.97, but his economy rate is a startling 4.27. And he achieves this sort of miserliness even against the best in the business, conceding less than five an over against Australia, India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies and just 3.54 an over against England.
Ashwin is much taller than Utseya, and delivers from closer to the stumps, but bowls with a broadly similar action, chest-on, achieving little or no drift away from the right-hander, except for anomalous instances like that delivery to Bresnan. And while he is certainly a more threatening bowler, in terms of wicket-taking ability, his returns in ODIs have fallen away of late, his average and strike rate since the start of 2012 reading 36.76 and 46.0 as compared to 27.07 and 34.0 before that. His economy rate has remained unchanged at 4.8. Batsmen seem to have figured out how to survive against him, but they aren't scoring any quicker.
The almost mandatory straighter line, forced on him by the rule change, will probably mean that Ashwin's carrom ball becomes a little more useful, calling for its frequent deployment. Straighter line, more carrom balls — this is precisely what most experts are telling Ashwin to guard against in the longer format. It remains to be seen how he juggles the two challenges, at a critical stage of his career.
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