R Ashwin: I did not fret too much
Visakhapatnam: It's been a trying last nine months in international cricket for Ravichandran Ashwin. Playing only one format for the country since August 2017, the man who reached 300 Test wickets quicker than anyone else in history was relegated to the sidelines even in the five-day game, due to an injury in Australia and then because of the think-tank's greater faith in Ravindra Jadeja's all-round skills when only one spinner could play in the Caribbean.
Emphatically back in the scheme of things upon Test cricket's return to home soil, the Tamil Nadu off-spinner made a telling statement with an inspired five-wicket haul on Day Three of the first Test against South Africa yesterday. Returns of 5-128 from 41 long overs at the ACA-VDCA Stadium marked the first time in nearly 26 months that Ashwin had taken fifer in a Test innings.
'Stopped watching cricket'
Elated at returning to the Test side, Ashwin revealed a new outlook that has done wonders for his state of mind. Hitherto obsessed with cricket, he has chosen to widen his horizons, which has helped him enjoy his cricket even more. "I've literally stopped reading about the game like I used to do. In as much as you want to know stuff and watch the game, there was a phase where I actually stopped watching cricket for a brief period. I just wanted to play. I felt like every time I watched on TV, I wanted to play the game and that I was missing out. It's very natural, everybody goes through it. But that's not the be-all and end-all," he rationalised. "My life has been all about cricket for the last 25 years, I played with utmost passion. [But] I thought my life, my family, my friends deserved a little bit more of my time. I tried to spend a lot more time away from the game, tried to develop a lot more interests — reading books, a bit of archeology. I found that whenever I stepped back on to the park, it was a much more happier time. I did not fret too much, thinking about the game or watching the game but whenever I played, I prepared to the best of my abilities."
'Nothing like claiming a fifer'
More than taking wickets, Ashwin added, it was the joy of playing that was paramount. "There is nothing like picking up a five-wicket haul for your country. But I enjoyed a five-wicket haul for Nottingham too [in the county circuit]. For me, it is about playing the game and I have realised that the joy of the game has to be back in my heart."
India 502-7d v SA 385-8 (D Elgar 160, Q de Kock 111; R Ashwin 5-128, R Jadeja 2-116)
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