Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was in Dubai for a coaching stint at the East Sports Management Academy, a feat – which he rightfully pointed out – is rarely managed by those still currently playing.
Addressing a press conference, he said ESM’s students selected for the exchange programme with his academy in Hyderabad, India, would be exposed to a structured coaching programme.
He emphasised that he has studied engineering and it is this ability to be logical, that came through in his responses on how he deals with the opposition.
At the time of his arrival in Dubai, he had won the ICC Cricketer and Test Cricketer of the Year Awards but his non-thanking of Indian ODI captain MS Dhoni in his acceptance tweets, had not yet become an issue.
Hence, with the UAE being Pakistan’s home-away-from-home, one of the first questions thrown his way was about his thoughts on India-Pakistan matches. He gave the standard player answer of it being the board’s responsibility but added that politics should not be mixed with cricket.
His earlier tweet on Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah’s achievements was widely publicised and he followed that up by saying: “Records are meant to be broken, Yasir Shah is a fine player, if they are broken by him I am happy about that”.
When asked about former Pakistan T20 captain Shahid Afridi’s two 6’s off his bowling in the Asia Cup 2014, initially he reacted with a smile and admitted that he still gets messages from Pakistan about that final over. However, he very firmly added that people should move on.
A mention of Pakistan Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq’s support of Indian Test captain Virat Kohli’s tons during the India-England series, brought about a nod of affirmation from him.
Ashwin reiterated that he was aware of the former’s criticism of England swing bowler James Anderson’s negative comments on Kohli. In support of his captain he said: “We like to put our own down, this mindset has to change.”
However, he did not take too kindly to the mention of the BCCI’s increased clout in cricketing matters. He did not like the question and was unafraid to say so. “English pitches have always seamed and ours have always spun. I disagree that the emphasis on spin right now is because of any other reason.”
In a world full of politically correct celebrities, Ashwin is a breath of fresh air. He came across as a thinking cricketer.
His criticism of the lack of professionalism in cricket, as compared to other international sports, is evidence of his great passion for the game. In a post-playing world, he may just be the person needed to bring about positive changes in the way the game is managed.