India’s premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has revealed the demoralising effect he has had while bowling at the former swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag. Talking in a chat show ‘What the Duck 2’, Ashwin recalled his tryst with Sehwag at a net session a few years ago. “Sehwag was never complicated. He had a demoralising effect on me actually,” Ashwin said. “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 recalled.
Ashwin, who was struggling to earn a spot in the Indian team at that time, was clueless what to do. “So I said to myself either I am just not good enough or this guy is just way too good … which he was. But to the greater 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 it 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’,” Ashwin recounted. “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,” he added. After being thrashed during net sessions on multiple occasions by Sehwag, Ashwin finally managed to figure out a way to get the better of the hard-hitting batsman.
He found out that the best possible plan against Sehwag was to bowl every single ball as “best rubbish ball”. “So the best possible plan against Sehwag was to bowl every single ball as best rubbish ball that you can give. And I got him out a few times in the IPL that way. Because what he expects is not what you dish out. Because he expects you to bowl good balls,” said Ashwin. “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,” Ashwin narrated.
“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 you’re so-called against him.” Ashwin also said that Sehwag was least interested in team meetings to discuss strategy. “He (Sehwag) just wanted to see the ball and hit it. He used to be the least participative during team meetings. “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,” revealed Ashwin.