R Ashwin isn’t a robot – he just treats himself like one

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R Ashwin says he “had to literally rewire” himself to bowl in Ranchi. As far as we’re aware, R Ashwin did not have to literally rewire himself.

We haven’t watched HBO’s version of Westworld in a while, but the way we remember it, the series went pretty heavy on the “Ha-haa! This character is actually a robot! moments. We imagine in this day and age, the final reveal might be that the whole damn thing was written by AI.

If you’ve seen Westworld, you’ll know that the knock-on effect of all this recurrent rug-pulling is that you spend a lot of your time watching it idly pondering the true nature of anyone purporting to be a human.

“That person may well actually be a robot,” you say, pretentiously and a touch smugly.

“That person IS a robot,” replies your partner. “We already know that. They showed us a few episodes ago.”

“Oh…” you reply sheepishly.

We are still, for now, largely restricting this particular brand of doubt to the viewing of TV dramas. We’re not sure how many times we’d need to be fooled in real life before we’d start wondering whether any given person was in fact an android. Maybe twice? Or perhaps that first time is all it takes for that seed of doubt to take root.

Man or machine?

Hasn’t happened yet though, so for now, we do not believe that reigning Lord Megachief of Gold, R Ashwin, is a robot. (Although has any batter actually tried shouting “R Ashwin! Freeze all motor functions!” at him? Might be worth a go.)

This means that when he says of bowling in Ranchi that, “I had to literally rewire and it was a mental switch I had to make,” we can be confident that ‘literally’ is almost certainly just for emphasis.  

After all, in the same press conference, he also said that, “The bounce is literally almost near the shin height,” which is one of the softest, most qualified literallys you’ll ever encounter.

Conclusion: R Ashwin is a lot less scientific about his use of the word ‘literally’ than he is about his bowling.

We’ve reported before how Ashwin has a way of talking about bowling that is equal parts fascinating and off-putting. When he says he had to rewire himself, this is an insight into how he modifies his approach for a new surface or a change in conditions.

It is mechanical. There are rules. On this occasion, he programmed himself to bowl with more side spin.

It’s a little odd, but Ashwin is far from the only high achiever who modifies his behaviour in this weird little way.


We get a lot of health/fitness/self improvement videos suggested to us on YouTube at the minute, a large proportion of which are by Californian high achievers who seem to glide around in a cosseted world without struggle.

We sometimes watch one and usually only partly for the information imparted. We’re more interested in the people themselves and the way they approach their lives. The end goal appears to be a ‘perfect’ daily schedule where every minute is mapped out for optimal results. Cold shower at 4.30am, mindfulness protocol at 4.45am, caffeine intake at 5.05am.

And that’s a key point. They’ll never say ‘having a coffee’ if they could instead say ‘caffeine intake’. They’ll never say ‘drink some water’ if they could instead say ‘hydrate’. And they’ll never say ‘jump around’ if they could instead say ‘engage in a plyometric training session’ – House of Pain they aren’t.

Nor do they talk about good habits. Everything has to be a protocol. It’s all very robotic; maintaining your mind and body the same way you’d maintain any other machine (but with less WD40 and fewer Allen keys).

What amuses us most is that they don’t seem to realise most people don’t perceive themselves as lab rats.

We watched a good one this week where the presenter set up a hypothetical person who currently does zero weight training, but wanted to start doing a bit and was therefore asking for a bit of advice. His fictional background for this fictional person became more and more rambling and detailed before finally betraying the presenter’s complete disconnect from normal people.

Putting words into his fictional person’s mouth, he said: “I don’t know how to approach this strength training thing. I’m willing to put three hours in the gym. I want to get bigger. I had a dexa scan and it showed that my ALMI was about the 40th percentile and looking at the literature I think being at or above the 75th percentile for lean mass is a better place to be.”

This is his idea of Average Joe, who doesn’t work out at all. Joe’s going out getting dexa scans, checking the literature, working out what percentile he’s in.

In a weird sort of way it warms our heart that someone so obviously laser-focused on becoming the perfect human specimen could simultaneously be so woefully bad at being a person that he literally – yes, literally – can’t even imagine one.

To repeat: R Ashwin is not a robot

Ashwin’s scientific approach can at times feel adjacent to this Stanford world of self improvement. In fact in an interview in The Cricket Monthly, he actually went so far as to describe warm-up games as “a great laboratory”.

“I go through my usual routine of going a little side-on, staying a little front-on, loading behind the shoulder, loading in front of the shoulder. Then try and use different wrist positions, where I’m loading facing the batsman and loading where I’m facing the non-striker. So everything I check.”

Another experiment he runs relates to the drift he might get with different types of ball in different countries.

“If you bowl the same ball with the normal rotational seam, it will pitch on off stump. If you bowl with the square seam, it will pitch maybe on middle stump. And if you bowl scrambled seam, it might pitch fifth stump. So these are things that you need to check in a warm-up game.”

But where there’s a certain soullessness to the YouTube self-optimisation protocols, there’s a crucial human warmth underpinning Ashwin’s methodology because it is of course all fuelled by his desire to get as much joy as he can out of… a game.

“Tomorrow if I am not playing or if I quit or someone kicks me out, I will still watch the game,” he says. “Because I love it.”

R Ashwin loves cricket. Just loves it. (Much like James Anderson.)

But it turns out even maintaining that attitude has required a bit of rewiring after feeling tempted by retirement for a period a few years back.

“I just want to play cricket. The one thing I needed to figure out was: why was my mind wanting to give up? Why did I want to quit? I was not enjoying the game. Why? Because the factors were all external.”

So what was the solution?

“If I turned my attention inwards, I could enjoy the game.”

R Ashwin: Bring yourself back online.

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  1. So as a newbie how do I go about the task of adopting a weight lifting routine ? Has to be home based — I am too lazy to go to the gyms

  2. I am prepared to spend three hours in the gym. Over the next ten years. Will that do it?

    Meanwhile, can Hartley & co rewire themselves in time for Dharamsala? Or is it just too big an ‘ask’. I think they’ve done better than many expected they would, but it seems not quite good enough.

  3. I like Ashwin, but it’s hard to understand what to make of what he says. I mean, how do you go about loading a shoulder? With an Atlas stone? And why face the non-striker when loading? That seems a little pointless. Surely as an international bowler you ought to be able to pitch the ball where you want to regardless of the seam position – particularly when you’re a spinner! Does anyone understand any of this?

  4. I’m gathering evidence here.

    Guest appearances from office equipment authors spouting wisdom such as “PAPER JAM”.

    Cryptic messages, such as, ERR_LITERALLY_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTS…

    …you are a robot, aren’t you, KC? I’ve long suspected it.

  5. The way things are going, my personal maintenance will soon include quite a bit of WD40, actually

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