What Rahul Dravid is to the world of batting – a legend who reimagined what it means to win matches for India with quiet, sustained aggression – Ravi Ashvin is to the world of bowling – a modern legend who combines the use of technology and his cricketing brain to out-think the world’s best batsman. Shortly before the Indian team flew off to South Africa, Ashvin gave what we think is the best interview of his career. It is a long and very interesting interview – full of emotional spice and intelligence. Just in case you can’t find time to read it, here is our summary of what we learnt from this interview:
- Prepare yourself mentally as much as you prepare yourself physically: “There are two aspects of preparation. One is physical and the other is mental and tactical. I don’t think people lay enough emphasis on the tactical stuff. Not saying tactical preparation is mandatory, because I have played in cricket environments where people mostly want to rely on their abilities, their strengths, rather than focusing on tactics…. Before getting into any series, I go into a four-week training. In the morning I focus entirely on my mobility and my injury-struck areas. Sling sort of work, fascia sort of work. I get into holding positions. Then two hours later, after breakfast, I go into strength training where I build my big-bang muscles. In the evening, alternate days I run, alternate days, I do skill….”
- Know the opposition better than they know themselves: “When England came to India, I watched their whole Sri Lanka series without missing one ball. I would immediately go back to Hari [the India analyst] and ask him what speed [Lasith] Embuldeniya was bowling, what speed Dilruwan [Perera] was bowling, what percentage of balls were within the stumps. We have this app where we can sort, so I watched again all the Dilruwan Perera videos. For example, Joe Root will not block two balls in a row. He’s got a slightly vulnerable defence, and I think he knows that. Or he’s constantly on the move. So every time he defends a ball comfortably outside off, the next ball will be a sweep…
I will watch every single ball. And I will watch slow-mo, super slow-mo. I try and see if I can dissect it. If there are differences in triggers, use split-screen. If I’m not able to entirely dissect it, I go to Hari and ask him to put a split screen on Ball A, Ball B, Ball C. By the time I get to the game, I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. I’ve always been pretty good assessing a batsman on the field, but over the last three, four years, I think I’ve taken my assessment analytically to another level because I felt like I can’t miss even 0.5% advantage I might get.”
- Use your setbacks to ramp up your intensity levels up: “I revisit my experiences, how somebody has played me, what have been their go-to shots, how they milked me if they milked me, how am I going to produce something different. What has worked, what has not worked. That is what process and result is, right? Just simply repeating the process is not process. So this has worked, fine stick to this. This has not worked, can I throw in something else? In the case of, say, Steven Smith, he is someone who thinks. Like after the first Test [where Smith was caught on the crease and edged to slip], the second instance, he came searching for the ball on the front foot. That was a reaction to the first [dismissal]. So if you know someone is searching for excellence, they will try and find a solution. And you can be prepared for that solution.”
- Use mentors and counselling to manage trauma: “How did you manage the trauma? I’ve got a mentor I’m deeply indebted to. The first thing you do when you go through this is to feel victimised. It is the easiest, most human, thing that you can do. Once you get through that sort of feeling, you get a lot of clarity. For every person that becomes a victim, there are so many people you can blame. But if you’ve got the tenacity and the will power to keep working, you will automatically go beyond the barriers of people.
So like in the case of Ravi bhai and how crushed I was, I know a lot of people with such experiences would hold it against him forever, but I’m not one of them. I am actually happy to sit across the table and have a conversation about it. And it is not about him at all for me. Because anybody can make a mistake. So I’ve started seeing things beyond people. People can change their opinions. People can be bad today but they can be good tomorrow. As long as you can see people for what they are and give them the benefit of doubt and empathy, you will be fine.”
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