R Ashwin is India’s best player and we won’t hear otherwise

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Thanks to India’s flat, lifeless pitches, R Ashwin averages 33.55 with the bat. Because of India’s rank turners, he averages 24.29 with the ball.

Or could it be that R Ashwin is India’s best cricketer?

We’ve covered this kind of thing before, but you reach our age and you no longer live in fear of repeating yourself. If we didn’t say things we’d already said, we’d hardly say anything at all.

Our recurring utterances don’t even have to be in the least bit insightful. The phrase we currently use most frequently is: “You’re a cat” – a statement which we (accurately) address to Monty. It’s not entirely clear for whose benefit we voice this reminder. Probably our own in a forlorn and paradoxical bid to slow our decline into fully unhinged Doctor Doolittledom.

Now for the repetition. As we’ve said before, we always find ourself disproportionately annoyed when some commentator or other (probably Michael Vaughan) refers to a batsman as being that team’s “best player”.

Best batsman, yes. Best player, no – never. Test cricket is not a game of run accumulation. It is a game of wicket-taking-while-limiting-the-opposition’s-run-scoring.

To win Tests, you need good bowlers. Ashwin is undeniably that. Bowlers are also obliged to bat and Ashwin is perfectly competent in that discipline too.

But more than anything, the best players elevate themselves by meeting high expectations. It is one thing to take five wickets in an innings. It is another to do it when people expect you to.

After ten wickets in the first Test, four in the second and six in the first innings of the third Test, R Ashwin was widely expected to take a few more. The fact that it was a wearing pitch and New Zealand were batting last certainly didn’t negate this. He took 7-59.

Surely by now India must realise there is no excuse for dropping this man for away Tests. It doesn’t matter what the conditions, this is a cricketer whose results brook no argument.

Sort it out, India. Don’t make us repeat ourself.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. That’s one hell of a whupping a not-that-terrible-really Inzid have taken in this series, by anyone’s standards. Does this bode ill for England’s prospects, oh King? Dare ye a prediction?

    1. Who knows? Only thing that really worries us is what we said a month or so ago about lots of younger England players having grown up rarely facing spinners on spinning pitches in county cricket. If England do well, we’d imagine they’ll have been reliant on familiar names.

  2. Odd that his record against England is so terrible compared to everyone else, although I have a sneaking suspicion that might be about to change.

  3. Sam Billings seems to playing well in the 3rd ODI , he certainly seems to have some method to his batting.

    (My favourite part of that article is the acronym of the ‘World Organisation of the Ovulation Method Billings’ – they were so close….)

  4. We’re wary of Cook and Root, they’ll be way better than Williamson (Ash-win) and Taylor (who never really turned up). We don’t do too well against deep batting either, it’s the 6-7-8s who tend to get the game-changing runs against us. Also interesting to see who will be your seam bowlers, and the XI with Stokes and Woakes around. If you arrive with a better middle order than Vince, Ballance, and a better spinner than Rashid, it’ll be a terrific series.

    1. That’s very kind of you to say Ameya. I think England will turn up with Anderson, Broad, Ballance (“He’s got the face of a fat man who’s just climbed the stairs…”), and Rashid.

  5. A bit late on this thread but will provide my tuppence on the matter.

    England have historically always been O.K against spin. Not terrible, not great but O.K.
    With a possible top 4 of Cook, Hameed, Root and Duckett the ability to play spin is greatly enhanced. Remember we were very competitive against Pakistan in the U.A.E and it will be interesting to see if we learned our lessons there. One test we could/should have won and another we should/could have drawn. Over 5 tests in India I’m certain we will be competitive. This is an England side that learns extremely quickly and historically haven’t been troubled by orthodox off spin.
    Our spinners are the big problem here which is why the likelihood of the old pro Gareth Batty playing is very important for control, we have plenty of wicket taking options it is when we need to sit in we have the problem.
    This England team is better equipped for Subcontinental condition than the likes of SF, NZ & Oz.
    We have a seriously good series on our hands and I for one am certainly glad we get a full quota of 5 tests to determine the strongest team.

    1. Not sure it’s that easy to gauge the ability of Duckett and Hameed against spin. The former’s shown some ability so far this tour, but neither faces much in county cricket.

      1. Hameed has faced plenty this season, he’s faced Raynor, Leach, Batty all who did quite well in the championship. Wintered in India as a young lad and played a lot of cricket in those conditions, I read an interview with him where he explained how his Dad would make him play when they visited family in India specifically so he learns about those conditions.
        Duckett’s bread and butter is his ability to play spin and counts that amongst his strongest assets.
        These 2 players seem to be quite special and you’re well aware of the comparisons made with Boycott/Joe Root/Dave Warner (in Duckett’s case). If both get anywhere near that level it’s very good for English cricket.

      2. The players themselves can say anything. That doesn’t really count for much.

        As for who Hameed’s faced: how many overs, what were the pitches like and are those three spinners really as good as they’re reputed to be, or are they merely solid performers who are cashing in against batsmen who until this season had played the majority of their cricket on seaming pitches?

        This isn’t to argue against you. We’ve no reason to believe they’re poor players of spin, but we struggle to conclude that they’ll fare well based on their performances within a domestic ecosystem which has for a long time been skewed.

        As ever, the test is… a Test. Good to luck to both of them.

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