India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin revealed how the team management and head coach Ravi Shastri, in particular, plotted Steve Smith’s dismissal on Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne last month.
Smith got out to Ashwin for a duck after he gave a catch to Cheteshwar Pujara at leg slip in the off-spinner’s third over. Ashwin got Smith out 3 times in the four-match series.
Ashwin, in a candid chat with fielding coach R Sridhar, revealed the instructions that he got from Shastri, who told the veteran Tamil Nadu tweaker to bowl in the first 10 overs itself as he felt the pitch would assist the spinner.
“After we lost the toss, Shastri came to me and went “ashhhh”. I was wearing my pant and suddenly taken aback! I said yes Ravi bhai. He roared in typical style ‘get the ball in the first 10 overs’.
“I was like get the ball in the first 10 overs in Melbourne? He said “I’ve told Jinx, it’s damp and might spin’. As he said, I got the ball early… and the ball spun immediately. I was like wow, what’s happening!'” Ashwin said.
— Tracer Bullet (@ravimaestri) January 21, 2021
Sridhar then explained the mood in the dressing room when Ashwin came in to bowl in the first session of the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
“We were sitting in the coaches’ box. The three of us were sitting with Hari, the analyst. Ravi bhai came in and thundered ‘I have told Jinks to bring Ash on early. He has the mental edge over Smith.
“The ball will surely do something. It’s a red ball not a pink ball. I’m waiting. I want to see him bowl inside the 40th minute’. And he was clapping furiously.
“And then when you (Ashwin) got the ball in your hand, the bowling coach was super excited. He was like, ‘Something is going to happen now’. Ashwin’s first ball itself fizzed and bounced; my heart was beating fast.
“My first thought was ‘Oh dear, how is Rishabh Pant going to keep to Ashwin on this wicket’. He was under pressure, was playing his first game. So that was running on my mind, I wanted to tell him to stand 2-3 inches behind. I called Saha and told him my thoughts immediately. I was hoping we’ll get 4 wickets before lunch,” Sridhar said.
India, led by Ajinkya Rahane after Virat Kohli went back home for his paternity leave, bounced back from the crushing defeat in the series-opener at Adelaide by beating Australia by 8 wickets in the second Test to level the scoreline 1-1.
The visitors then drew the third Test in Sydney before stunning Australia by 3 wickets in Brisbane to clinch the series 2-1 and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy yet again.