Ravichandran Ashwin will make his debut for Worcestershire today with the Indian superstar part of the County’s squad as the battle for promotion in the Specsavers County Championship enters the final month or so of the campaign.
The all-rounder has spoken about the chance came to join Worcestershire, his ambitions at New Road, his dazzling career, the pressures of being a top Indian player, and his hopes for the future in a Question And Answer session with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Question: Welcome Ashwin and how did the opportunity come about to play county cricket?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “Niall O’Brien, who plays for Ireland is a good mate of mine and he has been asking me for some time whether I would be interested in coming to play county cricket.
“I got a break from the international calendar, having got rested for the (ODI) series against Sri Lanka as we are rotating at this time and looking forward to the World Cup. So I thought I would use this opportunity to come across and play county cricket.”
Question: What is it that appeals to you about county cricket. Does the fact India have a series in England next summer come into the equation?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “Not so much. Maybe in the bigger picture it might. As far as I am concerned, I always wanted to come and play county cricket. It’s an exprience on its own. You have to do things on your own, be on your own which I like a lot and also get a freshness from a different cricketing culture, meet new players, get to play different kind of cricketers, meet new people. I’m really excited about it.
“I’ve settled in really well. It’s been really warm. I’ve been here for two days now. I generally like the cold. I come from a Southern part of India where it is very hot so it’s a good break for me. I’m sure it gets depressingly cold later on in the year but this part of the year, I’ve arrived in some very good sunshine. It’s very rare for England. I’ve been walking around Worcester. It’s pretty quiet. I don’t get to do a lot of this in India.”
Question: How did the opportunity to play for Worcestershire come about?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “As soon as Niall spoke about it, I think he spoke to Bumpy (Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes) and he immediately got in touch with me and it happened very quickly. There was no hassles in it. I was supposed to fly on August 24 but my visa hadn’t come so I had to put my flight back a day but all the processes had been put in place before that and most of the formalities had been done.
“It happened quickly and I should be very honest about it, I’ve been treated beautifully and taken good care of by the club and I’m really happy about it and I’m really enjoying it.”
Question: Have you come to England on your own or have your family accompanied you?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “My manager has travelled with me just to settle me in and once he leaves, I am expecting my family to join me during the second week of September.”
Question: You mentioned about walking around the streets. I presume that is difficult for all top Indian cricketers back home given how they are worshipped by supporters?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “It is very difficult to do it in India. I am someone who enjoys the simple things in life and all of a sudden, after being hit with stardom, it became very difficult to do that.
“I’ve really missed it over the last eight to 10 years and, coming over to England, especially is a lot of fun. This is in the middle of England and I really love how the countryside is and almost no-one comes up to me, although I’m always happy to sign autographs, and I’m really enjoying walking around the city.”
Question: You arrive at Worcestershire in the middle of a big battle for promotion?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “The moment I signed up, I immediately started doing my research and work and reading about Worcestershire and who the opposition will be.
“They are second in the table and hopefully if I can give them a good performance and produce the best I can offer, I will be very happy to push them over the line and secure promotion.”
Question: You’ve had an incredible Test career already but do you think your peak years are still ahead?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “I’m just about 30 now and I think I’m going to get better from here going forward. I was Cricketer Of The Year last year. It’s been great the last couple of years but in cricket you need to constantly keep improving.
“I had to battle with a small couple of niggles early on this year. I had a good couple of breaks as well this year so I’m really fresh coming over here and hopefully I can get some good overs under my belt.”
Question: I read a big article where you were explaining how you changed your technique a couple of years ago and have taken many, many Test wickets since that change?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “One thing that is very constant in international cricket is improvement. If you don’t improve on the go and quickly enough, you will always get sorted out especially as a bowler because we all know it is a batsman-friendly game and you are always faced with challenges.
“It is not just that first change I made. Ever since I started my career, was brought into the national side in 2008, when I was signed up by the Chennai Super Kings at the IPL, I’ve changed my action, changed different things.
“I’m someone that experiments a lot and I firmy believe that whatever you experiment with, how much you learn from experiments, and put it to the best use, really dictates how far you go in your career.
“I want to keep improving all the time and change is the only constant in life.”
Question: The last Indian player who played here – and did very well – was Zaheer Khan in 2006.
Ravichandran Ashwin: “Hopefully I can carry on the tradition of doing well. He did incredibly well here and is one of the greatest legends of Indian cricket and also one of the finest bowlers we have produced.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play alongside him as well. Coming over to Worcestershire and continuing the tradition he has left behind is always going to be a big challenge.
“Hopefully I can make a telling contribution to the team more than anything else, enjoy the change of atmosphere and if I can pass on a little bit of knowledge to the guys….that is most important as far as I am concerned and gelling with the team.”
Question: Did you know any of the Worcestershire players before you came here?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “Before I came, I did my research on everybody. Pretty much all of the guys are young and the moment I jumped into the dressing room on Sunday, it’s been fabulous. The guys have been great and made me feeling really comfortable.”
Question: You are Worcestershire’s third international spinner this summer after Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Santner. Will you be looking to help the younger spinners like they did?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “Of course. My knowledge is mostly self taught. It’s very experimental, I’ve gone wrong but also achieved a lot of right things. I might bring in a different perspective to what Nathan or Mitchell had.
“They may have had a different way of practicing and coaching. Mine is lot more experimental, mine is a lot more practical. I pride myself on setting fields and setting batsmen up so if I can pass on that sort of knowledge and try and help them to learn about different batsmen and setting different fields, I will be happy.”
Question: India have had a great run for the past couple of years?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “We have. I think we have a great nucleus. All of us are getting to the right age for being a very successful international cricketer. We have a great team. It’s one of the most talented sides India has produced.
“From one to eleven, we have some unbelievable talent in the dressing room and, most importantly, we all believe and it is a team which has never lacked belief over the last five or six years.
“The IPL has helped each one of us because of the international exposure, playing under pressure, the media, so it has given us a lot of belief going into international cricket.”
Question: It is hard for anyone looking in from the outside to imagine the pressure you are under in India and the scrutiny. It reminds one of The Beatles and not being able to go outside of the hotel room?
Ravichandran Ashwin: “We can’t either. If we go out without security guards, we are always going to risk ourselves. I don’t think people mean any harm. It’s again perspective. I don’t mind people coming to me for autographs and photographs.
“I think everyone is very different. It can be very difficult to do the smaller things, the happier things in life and that’s exacty why this tour (spell with Worcestershire) means a lot to me.”