Pressure. Perhaps the most used word when it comes to sport. Everyone who has played sport will tell you there is always pressure. From fans, parent bodies, sponsors, family and most importantly from yourself. At the end of the day a sportsperson is alone grappling with her or his own mind. A mind that is full of clutter and is constantly fighting to be freed. Of all the thoughts that keep flooding in, of the possibilities that keep disturbing the equilibrium and finally all the hope and expectation of what can be. The possibilities, options and the potential going forward.
Which team and management deals with pressure better? Who wants it more? Who can keep calm? That’s where handling pressure becomes the key. And that’s where Ravi Ashwin has been fantastic for India. Be it the Sydney partnership with Hanuma Vihari in January 2021 where Ashwin, with a serious back spasm, saved India the Test match or the World T-20 against Pakistan where he kept his calm to win the wide against Nawaz of the second last ball, Ashwin has always handled pressure well. Today was yet one more example. With the Bangladesh spinners all over India, Ashwin needed to be there with Shreyas to seal the game. He played himself in, took his time, blunted the spinners and at no point did he seem flustered. And when the loose balls came, he pounced. By then Bangladesh had started to lose control and India were on the cusp.
Ashwin the all rounder deserves far greater recognition than he gets. His 450 wickets at 24 makes him one of the best ever and as a result his batting contributions often go unnoticed. But with 5 Test hundreds and many important knocks over the last decade, Ashwin the all rounder has been one of the best ever for India.
Handling pressure is not easy. But that’s what separates men from the boys. From the team that wins and others who are good but not the best. It all boils down to who wants to win that extra bit more. With Ashwin what we will always get is competitiveness. Having known him for years, I remember a comment he once made. “If I die playing cricket I wouldn’t mind. I will do everything I can to play the game for India. That’s the only thing I have wanted to do. And I am fortunate that I have got the opportunity. You will always see me give more than my best. Yes I will fail. In sport you have to fail. But effort, that’s where you will see I will never back down. Give it my all. Results will come.”
It is this mindset that sets him apart. Be it his special physical training during Covid or his determination to bat out the Sydney Test when he wasn’t even able to stand up, Ravi Ashwin has done it time and again. And with Shreyas Iyer for company, he has now given Indian cricket fans the perfect Christmas gift and the team a lifeline in the World Test Championship. The WTC finals dream is alive. With India playing Australia at home, Ashwin will have a huge say in turning this dream into reality in 2023.