India offspinner R Ashwin has ‘openly challenged’ teammate and friend Cheteshwar Pujara to play a certain way in the upcoming Test series against England. Read on to find more.
In an interaction with batting coach Vikram Rathour in his YouTube channel, Ashwin ‘sledged’ Pujara for the way he bats against offspinners. Here’s an excerpt:
Rathour: For some reason, you really sledge him. I don’t know why, what’s the deal there. You really are after him all the time, and him being one of my favourite players in the team. I love the way he bats, prepares… he’s a coach’s dream. I have to defend him against you. No praise is enough for the way he batted in the last Test match, the way he responded to all those short balls, the injuries he had and the way he kept on batting. Hats off to him. Played a massive, massive role.
Ashwin: My problem with Puji is different, it’s a personal agenda. Because everytime an opponent, a counterpart like a Nathan Lyon is bowling, Puji makes it so heart throbbing for me. Everytime the ball goes in the air (off the pad)… I’m like nobody plays like this man, you’re making him look unplayable. Eventually everybody will think I’m not able to make the other batsmen bat like this. Any thoughts on this? Does he make Lyon look unplayable?
Rathour: He doesn’t, I think he handles Lyon really well. The numbers show that, he’s one guy who has batted really well against him and scored runs. He’s averaging some 50+ against him, so he has done well against him. That’s his way of playing and we’ve had these discussions with him, where he keeps giving reasons why he’s doing certain things, which are extremely funny at times. That’s what I love about him, he has a very set method. He’s a very stubborn character. That’s his strength as well. He doesn’t give it easy. The only time I’ve seen him under pressure is when he’s having discussions with you or when he’s playing TT with Pant.
Ashwin: Fact of the matter remains, every time I’ve bowled against Pujara, he has got out to me. You can cross verify it anywhere. How much ever you back him, that’s the fact. Will we ever see Pujara hit an offspinner over the top?
Rathour: Work in progress. I’m trying to convince him that at least once go over the top, he’s still not convinced. He’s giving me great reasons.
Ashwin: If he goes over the top against Moeen Ali or any other spinner in this England series, I will take half my moustache out and come and play the game. This is an open challenge! (Laughs).
Rathour: That’s a great challenge. Let’s hope he takes it up.
Ashwin: Do you think he’ll take it up?
Rathour: Uhmm… I don’t think he will take it up (laughs). He has a great reason for that. I’ve had this conversation with him – when everybody is up, why don’t you play one shot in the air so that you can push the fielder behind and get easy singles. He has a great reason, he says if I do that and they push the fielder back, I’ll get only one run. Now when they have all the fielders up, if I can keep playing the ball through the gap, I can keep getting twos and threes. I said that’s a great reason to keep it in the ground, carry on!
Ashwin: Jokes apart, we’re great friends. Don’t think I’m Puji’s enemy, pulling his leg is one of my favourite passtimes.