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R Ashwin admits India were undone by ‘tactical brilliance and execution’ from Pat Cummins in World Cup final


R Ashwin admits India were undone by ‘tactical brilliance and execution’ from Pat Cummins in World Cup final


R Ashwin was almost certain that India would win the World Cup on November 19. But the “tactical brilliance and tactical execution” of Australia captain Pat Cummins meant India finished as runners-up, as Australia won their their sixth World Cup. This was Ashwin’s review of the final, which he spoke about vividly on his YouTube channel this week.

“Pat Cummins was struggling as an ODI bowler heading into the World Cup. But in the last four or five games leading into the final, nearly 50% of the balls he bowled were cutters,” Ashwin said.

“In the final – I don’t know how many people explained it on TV – Cummins bowled to a four-five leg-side field like an offspinner, bowling the stump line. But he bowled only three balls in the six-meter mark or further up on the pitch in his entire ten-over spell. [He] knocked off crucial wickets in the final. The five fielders on the on side were square leg, midwicket, mid-on, deep square leg and long leg, and he bowled his ten overs without a mid-off.”

Despite having a predominantly leg-side field without a mid-off in place, Cummins did not concede a single boundary and finished with figures of 2 for 34. The two wickets were those of Shreyas Iyer and Virat Kohli; Iyer was done in by the low bounce on a length ball while Kohli played one on while trying to steer a back-of-a-length ball to deep third. Those strikes went a long way in restricting India to 240 in Ahmedabad.

“Cummins’ execution should be applauded,” Ashwin said. “It is easy to plan to bowl to a leg-side field. It is easier to bowl that way in a Test match because the umpires will not call a wide even if you bowl a couple of balls down leg.

“But to not bowl a wide down leg in an ODI, execute the plans with that field and not allow batters to drive the ball is brilliant. In my experience, I have seen bowlers go for at least one or two fours with such a field.

“It was the first time I saw a fast bowler bowl to an offspinner’s field without a mid-off in a one-day game. Tactical brilliance, tactical execution. They had us there.”

Why Australia put India to bat

A key factor behind Cummins and other Australian fast bowlers deploying the cutters was the slow pitch for the final. The strip had already hosted the India-Pakistan match on October 14, and Australia, on the eve of the final, had feared it would help the Indian spinners. Having called right at toss, Cummins elected to field, leaving everyone surprised.

Ashwin would later understand the exact reason behind Cummins’ decision when he ran into Australia chief selector George Bailey at the halfway mark.

“I was looking at the pitch in mid-innings break when Bailey came around. I asked him why they chose to bowl first when Australia generally bat first in finals,” Ashwin said. “[Bailey] said, ‘we have played IPL for many years, toured here for bilateral series. As per our experience in India, red soil disintegrates but black soil becomes better to bat under lights. It is tough [to bat] in red soil under lights, too.

“In Lucknow against South Africa, the pitch was a red soil one. Under lights, the ball not just seamed but also spun. Even dew does not have much impact on red soil whereas on black soil, the ball turns in the afternoon but becomes patta (flat) like concrete [under lights]. That is our experience’.”

‘Need same Kookaburra balls in bilateral series and IPL like in ICC events’

Ashwin also raised concerns over the quality of the white Kookaburra ball used for bilateral series and IPL as compared to the ones used in ICC events. He said that the ones used in bilaterals and IPL lost shape easily and also absorbed moisture unlike the ones in ICC events.

“I have observed in ICC events that whether the spinner rotates it or whether a fast bowler bowls, the ball lands on the seam and goes on. Whereas in bilateral series or IPL, the ball [loses shape and] becomes like a round vessel, a lemon or even an egg.

“Sometimes when the ball is kept in a storeroom, it catches a lot of moisture and soaks water and changes shape and changes quality [easily]. If the ball is given in the same quality [as in ICC events] in bilateral series and IPL, it will make a difference, because selections are based on performances in these bilateral series and the IPL. It will be the right test for batters and bowlers.”


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