‘Bowlers Like Labour Class, Batsmen Given Business Class Status’: Ravichandran Ashwin Rues Treatment
In the latest episode of Breakfast with Champions, Ravichandran Ashwin particularly makes it a point to highlight the tabooed nature of bowling in Indian cricket.
File photo of Ravichandran Ashwin (Getty Images)
As facts mix with fiction and frenzied fans turn into tantalizing storytellers, they grab our emotion and tell us things they want us to believe. One such factoid, to have emerged over the years, is that cricket by principle, is a batsman’s game.
It is after all, the swashbuckling crack of the bat, sending the ball to soaring heights or skidding across boundaries in fours and sixes that really drives the fans crazy. Everyone wants to be a cricketer, but only a batsman in that moment.
Bowling on the other hand, is nothing but a prelude, at the most a flurry of arms and legs out of which, comes a ball. No fun. That has been the general sentiment towards bowlers in India for long and fast-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has much to say about it.
In the latest episode of Breakfast with Champions, Ashwin poises himself in a candid conversation with Gauav Kapur in Chennai. While the light-hearted banter generally rivets between his personal and professional life, filled with quirks and interesting tid bits on the game, Ashwin particularly makes it a point to highlight the tabooed nature of bowling in Indian cricket.
“I actually had to prove it to people that it is good to be a bowler,” he says, taking a deep dive into his early years as a cricketer.
Ashwin’s overall record is astonishing. He has taken 220 wickets in only 39 Tests, and has won four consecutive man of the series awards – a feat that only Malcolm Marshall and Imran Khan had achieved.
Yet, he believes that bowling as perceived as “labour class” in the country, whereas batting in his words, “Is like first-class or business class.” His analogy is hard-hitting and perhaps, hard to chew.
This anomaly doesn’t elude Kapur, the host either, who dubs batting to be like a white-collar profession – esteemed and coveted alike.
Talking about this strange dissonance between the two sides of cricket that make a whole, Ashwin adds, “This is why you want to inspire people picking up the ball at the end of the day.”
Explaining himself further, he says, “There won’t have been a Javagal Srinath if it wasn’t for the hundreds of wickets he picked. You won’t have an Anil Kumble either, till he took 10 wickets and went on to pick 600 wickets to get an Anil Kumble Circle in Bangalore. Unless you treat people the way they need to be treated you will not inspire a generation to take up the tart.”
He goes on to talk cogently about the game, and how he gets flak because somehow he isn't perceived as 'humble' enough. The disparity between his performance record at home and abroad has meant over time that Ashwin is often disparaged by one little phrase: rough-track bully.
However, while talking to Kapur, he takes all the looming criticism in his stride. “It does prick me, but I am a fierce competitor who sweeps aside his emotions at the time of a game,” he says.
When asked whether he considers himself as an aggressive player, he responds, “Aggressive on field perhaps. I am definitely competitive and I don’t there is anything wrong in that. Even Virat Kohli is like that and so is MSD.”
“I don’t consider myself extremely talented or exceptional. For example, Virat and Rohit Sharma are born superstars. Their talent is inborn. I don’t belong to that segment- my cricket is relied on method,” he adds.
During the course of the talk show, Ashwin also touches upon and reminisces vociferously, some of the watershed moments and games of his career. This obviously meant that the controversial dismissal of Joe Butler during a Kings XI Punjab’s 14-run victory over the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League was brought up.
The England batsman was run out backing up at the non-striker’s end by after an impressive 69 during a match in Mohali that also marked the return of Steve Smith. The 28-year-old was “Mankaded” by Ashwin.
With Buttler at the non-striker’s end and marginally out of his crease Ashwin, the Kings captain who had run in to bowl, stopped and whipped off the bails. It was a legal dismissal but one seen by many as going against the “spirit of the game”.
Remembering the entire incident, Ashwin admits that he didn’t check his social media for many days after the incident. “I am a sensitive person, but I don’t think I took it too badly. In fact many people, including Kapil Dev actually told me I did the right thing,” he says.
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