Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has said that Virender Sehwag “had a demoralising effect” on him when he bowled to the former opener in the nets.
A few years ago, Ashwin was bowling to Sehwag in Sri Lanka and after being picked apart, the 30-year-old asked Sehwag for some advice. However, Ashwin admitted that he was shocked by the answer he received from the Delhi native.
“Sehwag was never complicated. He had a demoralising effect on me actually,” Ashwin said on a chat show. “There was an incident in Dambulla, where every ball that I bowled, first ball I bowled outside off stump, Sehwag cut me. Next ball I bowled on off stump, he cuts me. Next ball I bowled on middle stump, he cuts me. “The next ball I bowl on leg stump, he again cuts me.
“So I said ‘what the hell is happening’. So I just bowled a ball fuller, Sehwag stepped out and slugged me out for a six.”
Ashwin was struggling to break into the Indian team at the time and admitted that he had no idea how to stop Sehwag’s onslaught.
“So I said to myself, either I am just not good enough or this guy is just way too good which he was,” he said. “But to the great Sachin Tendulkar also, I didn’t struggle with bowling so much in the nets. I was very inquisitive. I observed this for a few days.
“But then I couldn’t hold myself back, I went to him (Sehwag) and asked, ‘so what should I do to improve’?. If I had asked this to Sachin, he would have given me some tips. If it were MS (Dhoni), he would have given me a perspective.
“Viru said ‘You know what, I don’t think off-spinners are bowlers. They do not trouble me at all. I just find it easy smashing them’. I said ‘Sir you are cutting me’. He said, ‘Yeah, I hit off-spinners against the spin on the off side and for left-arm spinners, I will hit against the spin on the leg side. I said, ‘okay, fine’.
“The next day I tried something in the nets he again started hitting me in different zones. He was actually treating me like a road-rag. Like how I would treat a 10-year-old kid, if I was batting against him.”
After being bested by Sehwag again and again, Ashwin finally figured out the 38-year-old’s weakness.
“So the best possible plan against Sehwag was to bowl every single single ball as best rubbish ball that you can give. And I got him out a few times in the IPL that way,” Ashwin said. “Because what he expects is not what you dish out. Because he expects you to bowl good balls.
“I realised one fine day that it was his ego that you needed to bowl against. Because he gave me a very interesting story. He said he had fever in a game at Rohtak and smashed Harbhajan for 12 sixes. ‘You know Harbhajan is a good off spinner.’ I said, ‘Yeah Harbhajan is a good off spinner.’ But that doesn’t mean you smoke him for 12 sixes with fever.
“I even asked him for the story behind it. He said he opened the innings and hit him for 2 sixes and came back due to fever. He went in at number 10 and smashed for another 10 sixes. The wicket was spinning square, you know. I asked,’Sir, what did you do?’ He said, ‘Every ball because it was spinning, I decided to smack him over the leg side. He said that he hit him even from outside the pitch. Outside off stump and hit him for a six on the leg side.
“So basically for Sehwag, it was very simple, he hit people on good balls. So my simple strategy to Sehwag was to bowl rubbish balls. And it worked. Because when you start bowling rubbish balls, he starts dictating the pace to you with your rubbish balls or your so-called against him.”
Meanwhile, Ashwin also revealed that Sehwag was never really interested in talking about strategies during team meetings.
“He (Sehwag) just wanted to see the ball and hit it. He used to be the least participative during team meetings,” Ashwin added. “There used to be team meetings or huddles, followed by a short speech addressed by Gary (Kirsten) . MS (Dhoni) would then take over, he would not utter a word and said everything is good. That was how team meetings would end.”