Anil Kumble put his weight behind R Ashwin, calling him a ‘class act’ and stressing he’s India’s premier spinner in Tests.
Ashwin was left out of the XI for the two Tests in West Indies, with India opting for the lone spinner in Ravindra Jadeja. Ashwin was an obvious choice in the side in home conditions, and showed why with a seven-wicket haul in the first innings against South Africa in Visakhapatnam. He then became the joint fastest to 350 Test wickets in the second innings of the game.
Kumble said Ashwin is an asset to the team not just for his bowling, but also his ability with the bat in the lower order.
“You don’t want your premier spinner to be discussed before a Test series or a Test match, thinking about whether he’ll make it to the team," Kumble told Cricketnext. “I think it’s sad but he’s showed his class. He’s the fastest to 350 Test wickets, it’s something amazing. You know, I think Ashwin, not just as a bowler but as an all-rounder, is an asset to the team. Him and Ravindra Jadeja will give you enough armoury with the spin and can also give you solid batting performances consistently, and they’ve done that in the lower-middle order for India.
“So, I don’t see a reason why anyone needs to go beyond these two spinners unless there’s something else that you want to look for, or if one of them is not fully fit. If you’re considering a third spinner, then yes, Kuldeep is of course a genuine spinner, and you’d want a wrist spinner to be in your team. But having said that, Ashwin is your premier spinner and I’m certainly happy with what he’s done because you can’t stop people from discussing. But, now hopefully he would have shut them up. He’s a class act."
Explaining why Ashwin is so dominant, especially in subcontinent conditions, the former legspinner pointed to subtle variations and ability to bowl consistently knowing the pitch was flat.
South Africa scored 431 in their first innings but Ashwin worked hard, getting 7 for 145 from 46.2 overs.
“I think it is the subtle variations that he comes up with and what was really satisfying was that it was a flat wicket and he knew he has to bowl consistently on one side of the pitch and on one side of the wicket. The line was consistent, the length was consistent, he kept varying his pace and trajectory and he wasn’t experimenting too much," said Kumble.
“I think playing those four or five county matches leading up to this Test match certainly came in handy. You need those overs under your belt before you come on because in the last few months he hasn’t played any cricket for India internationally so he was low on confidence. So, it was important that Ashwin got those overs under his belt and those subtle variation coming over the stumps, going around the stumps, angles, he uses them to fantastic effect.
“I mean you may not get too much from the pitch on Day 1, Day 2, this wicket was something like that. You need variation from the air, variation in the angle and variation in some of the deliveries that he bowls, and he did that. Those variations you don’t need to show to anybody else but show only to the batsman and I am sure the batsman were finding it difficult because he was able to maneuver the batsmen to making mistakes and that is exactly what he did. Some of the wicket that he got were the classical off-spin deliveries.
“The one that he got Markram out was a classical off spinner. So, you would want your classical off spinner to be getting those kind of wickets. In the first innings, you can’t get a better performance from Ashwin, yes you have to bowl a lot more overs and that is something he has understood as well in Test match cricket. On a flat wicket, you need to bowl 35-40 overs for you to pick up those fifers and that’s exactly what he did."