India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on Tuesday asserted that more than the turning Chepauk pitch, it was the “mind of the England batsmen” that helped his team dominate the second Test in Chennai, crediting his “pace and guile” for getting the maximum out of the track. The quality of the pitch became a subject of intense debate and former England players like Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen mocked it for being a dust bowl. England assistant coach Graham Thorpe had termed it “challenging”.
Ashwin, who was named man-of-the-match for his match figures of 8 for 96 and a brilliant century in India’s second innings, played down the talk surrounding the pitch. England were bowled out for 164 in pursuit of 482 on Tuesday.
“As much as people were predicting things from the outside, I thought the balls that was doing much weren’t getting wickets. It was the mind of the batsmen that got us wickets,” Ashwin said but did not elaborate on his comment on the rival batsmen.
“I have been playing for years over here now and it takes pace and guile to do it. Keeping intent was very important,” he said after India’s massive 317-run win to level the four-match series 1-1.
Ashwin said he enjoyed his game in front of the home crowd as he is “aware” of the home conditions.
“Every load up gives a different result in terms of which way the pitch is behaving. I try and load up differently, use the breeze, use different angles to release the ball, speed of the run-up. This is working because I have created this awareness for myself.”
“This wicket was very different to the one we played on in the first game. This was a red soil wicket, the first one was a clay wicket,” said the 34-year-old who is just six short of the 400-wicket milestone.
Talking about his fifth Test ton that came in India’s second innings, he said, “It is very important to put the pressure on the bowlers because if you allow them to dictate terms, it is going to get easier.”
“I just wanted to take it upon myself, and after I connected the first ball, I knew I got a hang of this wicket. I am someone who tries hard, and when things don’t go my way, I try harder.”
Ashwin said his batting clicked on the advice of batting coach Vikram Rathour and vice captain Ajinkya Rahane.
“Vikram Rathour has been very supportive. My batting was more about hands, to think tactically instead of technically. Ajinkya played a crucial role in telling me that I was overthinking it. That innings in Sydney really set the tone for me.”
Axar Patel, who took five for 60 in England’s second innings on his Test debut, said variation in speed of the deliveries helped him.
“It’s a good experience, to get a five-wicket haul on debut is special,” he said.
“There was much happening on the pitch. It was about varying your speed and I just kept doing it. Forced the batsman to make mistakes. On the first day itself, it was turning. So, we bowled tight lines and got the rewards.”
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who took two wickets for 25 runs in England second innings, admitted that he felt under pressure as he had not played a lot of Tests in the last two years.
“I was discussing a lot with Ashwin regarding bowling in right areas and putting the pressure on the batsmen.
“It was important to stay along with the team when it’s playing well. My job was to keep control, contain runs from one end and chip in as one of the three spinners on this track. We have been planning for this series for a long time, right from the Australia series.”
Kuldeep said the team was not worried after losing the first Test as it has faced such situations in the past also.
“We’re relaxed, we knew we had the team to come back and perform. Everyone was just focused on doing well in this Test.”
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