Ashwin, Chawla and the spin conundrum

R Ashwin and P Chawla. These are two cricketers who are under the spotlight as India head towards the decisive phase of the tournament.

Chawla was a surprise pick in the World Cup squad, and was widely believed (at least, by me!) that he would remain a passenger for the duration of the tournament; but one match winning spell against Australia in the warm up game convinced Dhoni that he would be the 2nd choice spinner, at least for the initial phase of the tournament.

R Ashwin, on the other hand, was widely considered to be the best One Day spinner in India and there were not many murmurs when was picked in the squad. While Chawla walked away with the credits in the warm up, Ashwin himself had a good game, never letting the Aussie batsmen get away after he had scored a vital 25 runs in the Indian innings. Still, Dhoni overlooked him, and at that time I believed the reason being, that having an extra off spinner to complement Harbhajan and Pathan would be  useless anyway. Well of course, only Dhoni can come up with the interesting explanation he offers.

“You want your bowlers to be in a very good mental state in the second half of the tournament, where you play against the best teams and you will be participating in the knock-out stages – that was one of the main reasons why we picked Piyush ahead of Ashwin.”

Going by this reason, Dhoni has high opinions of Ashwin, and it is a matter of one, or two games at the most before he gets a look in. Of all people, Dhoni knows enough about Ashwin, having captained him for over three seasons in the IPL, and I believe him when he says that Ashwin has the mental strength to come in and perform straight away in a crucial game. Still, one must temper that with the knowledge that Ashwin is not Tahir or Murali, to come in and run through any line up. He is going to offer control, and let the other bowlers reap the rewards off his hard work.

This is why I fear the media hype. Right now, the experts would have you believe that Ashwin can single handedly improve the Indian bowling; but the truth is, he offers more when it comes to the Power Play and will keep the opposition batsmen honest. Chawla has gone for a lot of runs in the tournament so far, but compared to the resident spinner-in-chief, he was the most likely one to take wickets. The only spinner who has managed to find a balance between taking wickets and keeping the run rate down is the other Singh.

So, it is a tricky decision for Dhoni to make. While popular opinion swings towards Ashwin, one must realize that he can only do so much. Should Chawla play against South Africa and take a bucket load of wickets, it will change the whole dynamics again. For my penny’s worth, it wouldn’t hurt to try what South Africa did in their game against West Indies: play three specialist spinners and open the bowling with an offie (preferably, Ashwin)!



  1. Conundrum, indeed!

    In fact, the overall bowling combination has become a conundrum… 3 pacers + 1 spinner, or 3 spinners + 1 pacer, or 2+2. I think if the pitch is on the drier side, and there isn’t much dew in Jamtha, then your 3 spinners + Zaheer is a good ploy. And Dhoni won’t have to break his head over Chawla vs Ashwin!

    But if not, then Dhoni might again opt for 2+2. And actually, it would help Nehra to get a few games under his belt before the Q/F to regain rhythm and confidence. India need the Nehra of 2009, when he often led the attack (pretty well) in Zak’s absence.

    It’s a pity Chawla doesn’t have Ashwin’s control. Coz he certainly has wicket-taking ability, but then messes up with periodic short balls. And no-balls!!! So if I have to choose just between those 2, I’d pick Ashwin… coz I can bank on 10 decent overs (at any stage of the game) and 1 (if not 2) wickets most games.

    But tracer… wonder if you too are worried slightly with Harbhajan? As Sharda Ugra made the point, he’s seemingly not putting enough (if any) side-spin on the ball. So it’s largely going straight. No wonder he’s gone wicketless even against Holland and Ireland. I really hope he’s saving up his big performances… 0/30 or 0/40 aren’t good enough from a (supposed) strike bowler.

    1. The thing is, we are running out of time…we should have known our best combination by now…the best thing to do is trust the game plan which has seen India rise to the top of the rankings over the last few years..and that is to go with the 4 best bowlers we have at our disposal…
      that would be Zaheer, Nehra, Harbhajan and Ashwin…the sooner Ashwin gets into the groove of things, the better

      As for Bhajji, the one thing going for him, is his economy rate….while he may not have taken wickets in a heap, he has managed to rein in the opposition…and I believe that good things come to those who wait 🙂 so, hopefully he will hit the jackpot in time!

      1. Am still stunned, annoyed, frustrated, etc etc that we contrived to lose this one from 267/1! Funny game, ain’t it! 🙂

        And agree with you fully… we should have known our best combination by now. I’m pretty sure Ashwin will play in Chennai, given the conditions. Think we’ll go with the 4 bowlers you mentioned there.

        But man… that start from Sehwag and Sachin deserved to be on the winning side. Alas. On the other hand, for SA, this close victory might just be the turning point from which they could go all the way. Let’s see…

  2. Hey Tb,

    I don’t get much time to read these days, which is why you didn’t see too many of my comments on your posts lately. But, I had bookmarked this one coz this matter is quite tricky and interesting.

    Finally read it. I personally have two things in mind, when I think of Ashwin-Chawla debate. One, that Ashwin deserves a go, and second that the team management has sent out a strong signal by not following what the media says.

    I am myself working on a piece on the same, will put my points down properly in that, so that people understand the other aspect as well. 🙂

    1. Cool…will be looking forward to that post..
      but do you think that it would have been a conscious decision by the team management to show the media that they cannot influence selections…

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