New or old, India’s Ashwin ready to play ball

MIRPUR, Bangladesh,  (Reuters) – India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin believes he has entered that phase of his career when he can skip practice and does not care if the ball in his hand is old or new.

Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin

Ashwin shared the new ball in two of India’s four successive victories, claiming man-of-the-match awards against Bangladesh and Australia.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni may once again toss the new ball to the 27-year-old spinner in today’s semi-final against South Africa and Ashwin said he was ready to play the role he often does for the Chennai team that Dhoni leads in the Indian Premier League.

“I’ve been playing alongside Mahi (Dhoni) for some time, and he probably knows where to use me and where not to use me. I’m always open to bowling in any situation, so for me it doesn’t make any difference,” Ashwin told reporters at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday.

“In the last two or three months, I feel that I’m probably at the top of my bowling game. When I reach that phase, I pretty much don’t practise at all.

“That’s a phase I’m in right now. The ball is landing exactly where I want it.”

Aaron Phangiso
Aaron Phangiso

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra has also been in superb form but Ashwin reckons South Africa will harness left-arm tweaker Aaron Phangiso with leggie Imran Tahir — the tournament’s second highest wicket-taker — in an attempt to cancel out India’s spin advantage.

“Imran Tahir has been in top form and I expect Phangiso to play. When that happens, you’re pretty much evened out on the number of spinners both teams will play. It comes down to how well your spinners handle it.”

South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis would not reveal whether Phangiso will play in the semi-final.

“That decision we will make tomorrow … we will assess how the wicket is playing and if it helps spin, we will definitely look at that option.”

In a tournament where spin bowling has made or marred the fate of many teams, South Africa’s Wednesday practice had a surprise guest in Shane Warne. Du Plessis denied the team had sought advice from the retired Australian.

“It wasn’t our decision. It was just I think Warne’s decision,” Du Plessis said.

“He thought he wanted to come and bowl a bit and bowl a few balls to us. Obviously, it was nice to have him around as he has been such a fantastic bowler.

“I wasn’t there when he was speaking with Tahir. But Imran has met him before. Obviously they both have played for Hampshire.

“They have worked together in the past and I did ask him what he said. He just said ‘you’ve been bowling well and keep up the good work’.”

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