Harm ball: Shrinking low for striking big, the new string in R Ashwin’s bow

As he took a couple of steps towards the popping crease, R Ashwin started to buckle his knees and lower himself. As if he was shrinking himself.


As he took a couple of steps towards the popping crease, R Ashwin started to buckle his knees and lower himself. As if he was shrinking himself. By the time he got to the release position, he seemed three-quarters his original height but the shrinking hasn’t stopped yet. The bowling arm, too, gets lower and side-on, as if he is aping Kedar Jadhav.

The effort to compress and contort himself as if he is trying to squeeze himself into the upper side berth of a train is for two-fold reasons: A distraction to the batsmen and to alter the release position as drastically as it is legally allowed. The resultant deliveries are usually slower through the air and under-cut to an extent and the batsmen have to adjust his eyes and head position to align to the trajectory and then has to derive all the power on his own, as the ball is likelier to limp across in its own sweet time.

Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine found this in the final over of the IPL Eliminator game. Having decided that a lap paddle was the way to go, Shakib shuffled across and got ready with his shot. But the ball not only arrived late but it also shot through much lower.

R Ashwin, T20 WCRavichandran Ashwin

Shakib had to lunge and crouch and try to delay his shot but it proved too much, and unsurprisingly he failed to connect and was trapped in front.

Narine decided the best way was to charge down the track and lift him. Yet again, the ball wasn’t there where he thought it would be and more importantly had no pace on it. Narine’s bat-swing went awry and he ended up lifting it straight up. A good sweeper might be able to handle the slower pace and the lower trajectory.

Wider to get more turn

R Ashwin bowling action

R Ashwin bowling actionThe wide-arm or side-arm release is done to get more side-spin, Ashwin has stated before. “Someone with a high-arm action like me will get more over-spin than side-spin. Graeme Swann bowls a lot wider with his arm than I do, so he achieves plenty of sidespins. I also bowl the wider arm delivery to impart side-spin these days.”

The batsmen, especially if they are surprised by the release, can be drawn to the angle and make their initial foot movement too early. With that kind of release, the ball can slide either way and can add to the confusion of the batsmen. And all this without much bounce. As a result, lbws become a greater possibility as Shakib found. It’s a good surprise ball on slow and low pitches.

When Jadhav bowled it in the nets first, it was more to try something out of sheer boredom and annoyance at getting hit by every batsman. Jadhav used it liberally, so did Manoj Tiwary and now Ashwin too, and almost pulled off a heist the other night.

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