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IPL 2016: Dhoni now has two Ashwins up his sleeve

RPS upset the home team and defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) with a 9-wicket win, which included a noteworthy spell of 4-0-16-1 by M Ashwin, while the offspinner bowled just one.

Cricketnext Staff |April 11, 2016, 10:40 AM IST
IPL 2016: Dhoni now has two Ashwins up his sleeve

MS Dhoni now has the luxury of two, not one, Ashwins while captaining debutants Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) in Season 9 of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Offspinner R Ashwin has always been Dhoni's go-to bowler - whether bowling for the suspended Chennai Super Kings or the national team across formats. But while leading RPS to a win in their IPL opener, the Indian skipper chose to throw the lesser known, Murugan or M Ashwin, into the line of fire - and the legspinner came up with the goods.

RPS upset the home team and defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) with a 9-wicket win, which included a noteworthy spell of 4-0-16-1 by M Ashwin, while the offspinner bowled just one.

M Ashwin started playing T20s for Tamil Nadu only last year, but it didn't take him long to get noticed by IPL franchises - which fetched him a whopping Rs. 4.5 crore at the IPL players' auction earlier this year.

He dismissed Mumbai's Shreyas Gopal as his first IPL wicket, and it only made it easy for him to get the feel of the big stage as Dhoni brought him on to bowl only after half of the MI batsmen had taken the long walk back.

MI's poor start also meant that Dhoni could hold R Ashwin back while giving his rookie legspinner the confidence to bowl in front of a capacity crowd at the Wankhede Stadium, which was first such experience for M Ashwin.

"It was a very good platform for legspinner Ashwin to come in. He was slightly under pressure," Dhoni said after the win. "I thought it was more important for me to give him those four overs, as in the longer run I need him as a wicket-taking option."

That left R Ashwin to be required for just one over - the 16th, and he proved the ace he is by striking off the very first ball. He returned figures of 1-0-7-1.

Interestingly, R Ashwin had bowled just two overs in the ICC World Twenty20 semi-final against the West Indies, which India lost. Dhoni had given dew as the reason for under-bowling his premier spinner.

But there wasn't much dew during the IPL opener, when Dhoni chose to use M Ashwin ahead of the experienced pro.

"Rajat Bhatia was bowling well [from the other end]; he was exploiting the conditions. That was the reason. (R) Ashwin bowled that one over and after that I thought going with fast bowlers [at death] was a better option," the RPS skipper added.

But Dhoni signed off saying that the offspinner will always be his most lethal weapon.

"Ashwin has bailed me out in a lot of situations, whether bowling in the first six or in the slog overs. He is a bowler who can come in and do well at any time," Dhoni said.

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