Ravichandran Ashwin played a pivotal role in Rajasthan Royals' (RR) victory over Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at Chepauk on Wednesday (April 12). Ashwin first surprised everyone when he walked in ahead of Shimron Hetmyer, Dhruv Jurel and Jason Holder. He got a life first ball when he was dropped at slip by Moeen Ali, and he made Chennai pay as he struck a 22-ball 30 to induce some momentum in the innings.
Ravindra Jadeja was bowling exceedingly well and should have had a few more scalps had the fielding and catching been better. Ashwin reckons Jadeja was unplayable for a couple of overs and as a result, playing him out seemed to be the sensible option, despite not going in with that mindset initially.
"I felt like I was playing in a Test match when he was bowling. These are the things we are going to encounter with different teams in different home grounds. I just felt it was perfect for a left-arm spinner to hit that spot, add side spin, good speed. Whether it's a ploy or it turned out to be that way we don't know," Ashwin said in the post-match press conference.
"Jadeja was a bit unplayable for those 2-3 overs. The ball was spinning from outside leg stump sometimes. So, we had to bide our time and try and pick out match-ups better."
Speaking of his batting, Ashwin says that he is always padded up in the dugout and ready to go. "I am surprised that people believe that I pad up and just run in. Never works like that. I don't discuss with the team management. Every single match that we bat, I am padded up either as a showpiece or as a batsman," Ashwin said.
"I am just padded up, ready to go anytime. If you put a batter in that position and ask them to go in any order, he may not willingly do it. But for someone like me who doesn't bat much throughout the season, I'm glad that I'm getting an opportunity to at least pad up. So, I stay padded up and ready to go."
With dew in play at Chepauk, Ashwin was surprised that the umpires decided to change the ball because of it. Ashwin, who finished with figures of 2 for 25, says he has been "flummoxed" with a few decisions in the IPL this season and has called for consistency from the umpires.
"It's never good [bowling with dew]. However, I am quite surprised the umpires changed the ball for dew on their own. It's never happened before and I am surprised. Some of the decisions in this year's IPL on the field have left me a little flummoxed," the all-rounder said.
"What you need is a little bit of balance. As a bowling team, we are not asking for the ball to be changed, but the ball was changed, on the umpire's accord. I did ask the umpire, and he said we can change it. I just hope everytime there is dew, they can change it every single time going forward in this IPL. You can do whatever you want, but you need to have a certain standard."
It eventually came down to 21 to win off the final over for CSK with MS Dhoni and Jadeja going great guns. RR skipper Sanju Samson could have easily tossed the ball to Kuldeep Sen, who had conceded just eight runs in the two overs he had bowled. However, Samson backed the experienced Sandeep Sharma to deliver. After being tonked for a couple of sixes, Sandeep nailed perfect yorkers off the last three deliveries to guide his team over the line.
Ashwin for one was extremely pleased with the way Sandeep bowled. "Sandeep is someone who I really like. I really enjoy his commitment. I enjoy his attitude. He is someone who will fight. Doesn't get flustered," Ashwin said.
"Even when we walked up to him at three required off seven, he was okay. He was relaxed, he had his own plans. He wanted to deliver what he could deliver.
"I feel going full to MS Dhoni at that stage is sometimes not the best option. But any bowler would think that you have 20 runs, you would just want to shut down 2-3 balls. Lesson learnt, but it was phenomenal from Sandeep. I really enjoyed the composure he showed."
With the win over CSK, Rajasthan moved top of the IPL 2023 table with six points from four games. They will have a chance to further consolidate their position when they take on defending champions Gujarat Titans (GT) next on Sunday (April 16) in Ahmedabad.