Say what you like about Ravichandran Ashwin's Test credentials, but as a modern limited over bowler he has few peers.
His IPL economy rate is just over 6. No wonder he has an $800k contract. He has achieved this success at a time where off spin has become the black sheep of the spin family.
What can we learn from the young Chennai spinner to take to our own game?
The modern line
Limited over cricket tend to be played on bat-friendly pitches meaning to be effective you have to bowl at the stumps and set a leg side field.
Ashwin can do this well because of his variations. He can bowl a very effective carrom ball that he calls the “soduku ball” from gully cricket. He bowls an arm ball and, of course, an orthodox off break. His high action prevents a doosra but he makes up for it by getting more bounce.
That means a batsman will find it very hard to predict the delivery and so can't line him up to hit into the spin.
The key to this method is accuracy. Having variations only works if you can put most balls on a difficult length for the batsman. Ashwin is also excellent at maintaining a good length, forcing the batsman to play higher risk shots.
This may be Ashwin's key line and length, but he also has enough of a cricket brain to adapt to a turning pitch.
He is quite capable of adjusting his line - not his length - to bowl outside off stump, turning in. This is the classic off spin delivery mastered by Swann.
Although he does not have the same rip as Swann because of a less powerful action, this doesn't matter as much on a turning pitch where you can still get the ball through the gate.
Here variations are less about the way the ball turns and more about flight and dip. As Ashwin doesn't get as much dip as a big ripper of the ball, he will always see this line as a secondary option.
Nevertheless, he can bowl well with this line and it gives him a second option which is essentially another "variation".
What does all this mean for you?
It's important to decide what kind of bowling suits you best; the straighter, spin-both-ways method, or the big ripping, dipping and floating method.
Then, like Ashwin, work towards mastering the method that works for you.
It will take a lot of bowling in the nets, ideally away from batsmen who will try to whack every ball no matter how clever your variations. Ashwin did exactly this until he felt confident in his method. He has had great success that you can emulate.
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