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R.Ashwin : The Captain to watch out for in IPL '18

Kings XI Punjab may have pulled off a masterstroke in appointing Ashwin as their captain.

Skipper R. Ashwin celebrates a wicket with his new franchise. Source: Cricket Australia

Kings XI Punjab might have just pulled off a masterstroke by naming R. Ashwin as their captain for the 11th edition of the IPL. While most franchises have gone with their best batsman as their captain over the last decade, Kings XI definitely went left field by naming the champion off-spinner as their skipper for the latest edition of the showpiece event of the T20 franchise bandwagon.

The Mohali based team, along with The Royal Challengers Bangalore and The Delhi Daredevils, have been the perennial under-achievers of the tournament, as none of them have yet tasted ultimate victory. But this could well be the year that the fortunes of the men in red and silver finally turn around. By selecting Ashwin as their captain, they have decided to go against the grain (at least in this era) and definitely mean business by bolstering their batting with the inclusion of such heavy hitters in Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch, David Miller and all rounder Marcus Stoinis in their line-up. Not to mention the aging warhorse Yuraj Singh, who is still capable of the odd explosive innings in this format of the game and the IPL’s fastest half-centurion K. L. Rahul. They have also shored up their bowling by bringing in T20 specialists Andrew Tye, Mohit Sharma, Axar Patel and emerging 17- year old Afghan talent Mujeeb Ur Rahman. With an astute captain at the helm and a well-balanced team, if they play to potential, they could find themselves jostling for the honours, come the big finale on the 27th of May. The Kings XI are finally primed for success!

The IPL was the tournament that unearthed the wily off-spinner to the world and it could well again be the competition that takes the wraps off a great captain in the making. The engineer from Tamil Nadu has long been hailed as one of the sharpest cricketers to have represented the country and could provide India with another captaincy option, should current skipper Virat Kohli or his deputy Ajinkya Rahane find the responsibilities of leadership too much to bear.

Cricket being a game loaded in the batsman’s favour, really test a bowler’s wits, as he constantly looks to outsmart a batsman always on the offensive (especially in this age of heavy bats, shorter boundaries and ever reducing formats). In this regard, the lanky tweaker has not been found wanting and this was reinforced recently, when he dethroned Aussie pace legend Denis Lillee as the fastest bowler to reach 250 test wickets.

Ashwin has always possessed a sharp cricketing brain. Image: cnmsports.com

Ashwin is a thinking man’s cricketer. While he has been guilty of sometimes overthinking things, like slowing down his action right in the middle of his delivery stride, (in an attempt to fox the batsman) or trying too many variations at the crease, you can see a mind that is always thinking, always trying to improve. Recently when he and partner-in-crime Ravindra Jadeja lost their places to wrist spin twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in the limited overs formats, he responded by adding leg-spin to his arsenal in an aim to regain his spot in the team. Here is a cricketer who is always evolving, and taking up the captaincy reigns signals the latest chapter in that evolution.

He announced his arrival as a captain when he outsmarted the most successful captain in Indian cricket – Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in his team’s match against the Chennai Super Kings last night. Right from getting his team selection right, by drafting in the dangerous Gayle in place of Stoinis, to changing his powerplay tactics from the one he employed against the Royal Challengers, Ashwin was on the money right from the get-go. His tactical acumen was evident for everyone to see and his strategic captaincy resulted in a victory for his team against the undefeated yellow brigade.

When asked in one of the interviews last year as to what his biggest cricketing goal was, he replied – to dominate world cricket! (In whichever way!) While he might not be there yet, it is such lofty ambitions that have propelled him from an opening batsman, who could bowl a bit, to arguably the pre-eminent spinner in test cricket and definitely as one of the skippers to watch out for in this year’s marquee event.

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