Ravichandran Ashwin's exploits with the bat was one of the turning points of the Eden Gardens Test that India won by an innings and 51 runs against the West Indies in Kolkata on Friday. Ashwin struck his second Test century (124) and it was the record 280-run seventh-wicket stand with Rohit Sharma that handed India a match-winning 219-run first innings lead on Day Three of a one-sided contest.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the Day 2 Eden pitch was "the worst to bat" but Ashwin and Sharma defied the odds to rescue India from an embarrassing 83 for five to 354 for six at stumps on day 2 on Thursday. Debutant Sharma was undefeated on 127 while Ashwin was eight runs shy of the three-figure mark.
Ashwin showed enormous composure to steady a rocking Indian ship and give Sharma the confidence to keep the scoreboard ticking. Ashwin has always been a thinking cricketer and it showed in his approach when he came in to bat on Thursday. "It was important to play out time. I trusted my defence and I knew the first 25-30 minutes was going to be difficult. It was a challenge batting on this wicket," Ashwin said.
The 27-year-old Chennai spinner, who is clearly establishing himself as an all-rounder, went on to complete his second Test century on Friday. "It was important to keep going. With Rohit, we set small milestones of 50 runs for us," Ashwin explained how the duo handled pressure.
Ashwin, who Sunil Gavaskar thinks can bat higher in the order, said it was great feeling performing in front of an Eden crowd. "Eden Gardens has a great history in Indian cricket and it's a pleasure to be performing here," he said. Ashwin played his role with ball with five wickets in a match dominated by debutant pacer Mohammed Shami's nine-wicket haul.
"It was one of my best spells in Test cricket. I was steady and consistent and did exactly the things I wanted to do," said Ashwin, who got the crucial wickets of No. 2 and No. 3 Kieran Powell and Darren Bravo in the West Indian second innings. Once Ashwin broke the confidence of the Caribbean top order, the rest went down like a pack of cards.