x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dhoni refuses to get carried away by Ashwin debut

Nine-wicket haul does not make off-spinner certainty for the India Test team, says captain, following five-wicket win over West Indies.

Spin bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin, centre, and Pragyan Ojha, second from right, took 16 of the 20 West Indies wickets to fall during the first Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi.
Spin bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin, centre, and Pragyan Ojha, second from right, took 16 of the 20 West Indies wickets to fall during the first Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi.

MS Dhoni played down suggestions that Ravichandran Ashwin could be the long-term successor to Harbhajan Singh after the rookie spinner was named man of the match on his Test debut in Delhi on Wednesday.

Surprisingly, Ashwin was picked ahead of Harbhajan for the first Test against West Indies, and conceded that he did not expect to play as well as he did in spearheading India's five-wicket win.

Set 276 for victory, India got home thanks to 76 from Sachin Tendulkar and 58 not out from VVS Laxman.

But it was Ashwin, 25, who repaid the selectors' faith by earning a rare man-of-the-match award and becoming the second-most successful Indian bowler on debut after Narendra Hirwani, the leg-spinner, who took 16 for 136 - also against West Indies - in 1988, with his nine-wicket haul.

"Let's see him more because he has only played one game," Dhoni said. "He did not get a lot out of the wicket but it was his variations that helped him. He was flighting the ball nicely and then he has the carom-ball and the top-spinner."

Dhoni said that an inexperienced bowling attack had left him a little unsure, before the Test.

"It was a difficult task in the sense that you didn't know what you'll get, especially with players who have not played this format like Ashwin and [pace bowler] Umesh Yadav," Dhoni said.

Ashwin's match haul of nine for 128 came four days before he gets married. "I don't know if it's a gift for me and my wife before marriage, but it is a very happy feeling to go into my wedding with such a performance," he said.

Ashwin will marry Prithi Narayanan, his childhood sweetheart, in a families-only ceremony in Chennai a day before the second Test, which starts in Kolkata on Monday.

"I expected to get a few wickets but not so many," Ashwin said. "It helped that [left-arm spinner] Pragyan Ojha was bowling so many maidens from the other end."

Ashwin took six for 47 in the second innings, while Ojha finished the match with seven wickets.

Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, conceded that spin was the decisive factor in the game after the slow bowlers took 16 of their 20 wickets.

"There is no doubt that spin has affected us," Sammy said. "As long as I know, spin has been our problem and losing 15 wickets for 200-odd runs [in two innings] is definitely a problem."

West Indies lost five wickets in the first innings for 48 runs and were all out for 180 in the second.

Sammy said the team would work towards solving the problem.

"We need to find a way to score against spin and not let them get us out," he said. "I thought we played some good cricket in the game but our batting failed in the second innings."