IND v ENG 2024: ‘Brilliant, relentless, always learning’- Cheteshwar Pujara's tribute to R Ashwin ahead of his 100th Test

Ashwin will play his 100th Test for India in Dharamshala against England.

Ashwin and Pujara | GettyR Ashwin will be playing his 100th Test for India when the Rohit Sharma-led side takes the field against England in the fifth and final Test in Dharamshala from March 7 onwards.

Ashwin had become only the ninth bowler overall and only the second Indian to achieve 500 Test wickets in the Ranchi Test.

Cheteshwar Pujara paid rich tribute to the Tamil Nadu off-spinner and said that Ashwin is always one step ahead of batters and he doesn’t shy away from experimenting with new things.

Reading batters has always been a key part of what Ash does. He is always one step ahead, alert to the smallest cues. He is constantly observing the batter… No detail is too small for his sharp mind. He puts a lot of effort into each delivery,” Pujara wrote in his column for ESPNcricinfo.

Having just become the second quickest bowler to 500 Test wickets, Ash now deserves another equally significant landmark - of 100 Tests. He’s probably a little late getting there for various reasons. But I am really happy for him. He is someone who has always been ready to take the challenge on and do the hard yards for the team. He deserves it the most.

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He has evolved and survived for a long time despite playing multiple formats, and that is mainly because of his innovative mind: he is not afraid or shy to try out new things, even at the cost of failing in the process,” Pujara added.

Ashwin had taken 17 wickets in the four Tests against England, including a fifer in Ranchi.

Pujara, who also played his 100th Test last year but has been out of favor currently, said there was no respite for batters while facing Ashwin as he was always on the look-out for taking wicket.

There’s no respite. If you’re comfortable batting against him from over the stumps, he will change to round the stumps, from where he can create that angle where, if the ball goes straight, there’s an edge in play even if you are looking to defend.

He is constantly observing the batter, his trigger, where the backlift is coming from, and which stump he is on. So, if a batter is looking to sweep, Ash will go a little fuller and try and block him by bowling the quicker delivery, almost a yorker length, and get an lbw,” Pujara added.

Pujara cited an example of Ashwin’s meticulous preparation before a match.

He (Ashwin) has spoken previously about how he obsessively pored over videos of Steve Smith several months before India’s tour of Australia in 2020-21. Before the Melbourne Test, I remember we chalked out the plan of having a leg gully against Smith because there was a bit of moisture, which made the ball hold a bit.

And that is the reason Ash ended up bowling with the new ball. Part of the plan was also that he would come around the stumps to create the angle. And the plan worked - I caught Smith at leg gully,” Pujara noted.

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Furthermore, Pujara said that he has enjoyed Ashwin’s duels with England’s star batter Joe Root.

If you look at his record, Root has always been a proactive batter - he will either try to play the sweep or reverse sweep, or try to rotate the strike so he doesn’t have to face six balls off any particular bowler. I’m not saying that Root doesn’t defend well, but overall, his game plan is to put bowlers under pressure.

To counter that, Ashwin’s tactic has been to keep Root on strike by taking out the short leg or other close-in fielders, leaving just one slip, and placing a fielder at square leg to prevent the single. It doesn’t matter whether you are playing on a flat pitch or a turner, Ash wants Root to defend those six balls and see how he reacts. It is a battle of wills between two top players, which makes for an engrossing contest,” Pujara wrote.

Outside of cricket matters, Pujara said “You can never win an argument” against Ashwin.

(ESPNCricinfo/ PTI inputs)


By Jatin Sharma - 04 Mar, 2024

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