India's top off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on Saturday made an innocuous media conference interesting when he said his 'Sunil Narine-like action' during Asia Cup was prompted by a thought as to whether "he can do a little bit with his elbow" wearing a "full-sleeve" jersey.
Ashwin did not take any names but his statement raised a question mark on whether some of the off-break bowlers in the international circuit are getting unfair advantage or not.
"I wanted to do something different (on his Narine-like action). Unless you try, you won't find out what can work or not. I had never bowled in full-sleeves before. So I wanted to see how it would feel. That's point number one," he said.
"And I just wanted to see if you can get more revs (revolution) on the ball if you can do a little bit with your elbow, as much as that is. You can get a lot of advantage with these things -- so why should I lag behind if someone else is getting a competitive edge," Ashwin said in remarks which may raise a few eyebrows.
Ashwin's 11-minute media interaction ahead of India's World Twenty20 match against Australia had all sorts of elements in it. A bit of swagger when he answered the question on his winning man-of-the-match award against Bangladesh, some quotable quotes like "swim a tsunami" when quizzed on batting first and a seminar-like term "industrial average" when asked about India's death bowling.
Asked if India would like to challenge themselves and bat first on winning toss, Ashwin said, "I would not want to swim a tsunami! I would not want to challenge conditions. If we win the toss, we'll again bowl first if that is what is required. You will be fighting against a wall if you are fighting against conditions."
On his man-of-the match award against Bangladesh on Friday, Ashwin said, "I have been living with it for the last three-four years, so I'm used to it right now. For a batsman, who has not got runs for five-six games to actually get runs and get a man of the match award -- it's going to really boost his confidence.
"It's the same for a bowler. Unless you apprise the bowler with something like that, you will never find good bowlers coming through. As much as a batsman is important, a bowler's confidence is also important. In that regard, yes it's a big boost."
Asked about India's death bowling, he came up with a new term "industrial average".
"I have not looked at the stats but the 'industrial average' has been like that. It's not like Australia concedes less than what India does or Pakistan does. Probably Pakistan might (concede less) but if you see the overall stats, they're going at nine runs an over," he said.
"We're also doing the same if not picking a few more wickets on the way. We need to view it from a perspective of what's the world doing and what are we doing. If you take it that way, we're doing a pretty good job."
Asked if the preparation differs between bowling the first over and at the death, he spoke about "swallowing" one's ego by trading accuracy for wickets.
"When you're starting off, you tend to look to bowl as good balls as possible in the areas you want. The disadvantage with that is that a good ball can be hit for four with less amount of risk as fielders are insider the circle," he said.
"Whereas in the death, you have to be -- this is my take on it, not that this is how it has to be -- swallowing your ego and trying to make sure you're not giving runs away. Because there are people around who want to pick wickets at that time. For me, it's about swallowing your ego and making sure you've done the situation bit pretty well." Ashwin also gave a curt reply when asked about any conscious ploy to bowl round-the-wicket to right-handed batsmen.
"As such, I've not thought about anything like that. It's a common phenomenon, isn't it? You see off-spinners coming around the stumps straight away these days. I cannot explain why we do it. It's just what you feel right. If it's worked, you want to stick on to it. A batsman makes runs with a bat, he sticks to the same bat! Something like that."
He also praised Amit Mishra but did not forget to mention that the leggie was used in situations where the batsmen were having a go at him.
"As a combination, every bowling unit benefits from each other's success and bowling strengths. Amit has been one of our potent forces in this tournament. We've been using him in all the situations where they actually have to go for it. He does not give you a lot of pace so when the batsmen are going after him, it's a big chance. Because, then he's going to slow it down even more."
Ashwin himself is also trying to vary his pace a lot.
"There's been a conscious effort to vary the pace, not just slow it down. I've been bowling at different paces -- 100 kmph to 80 to 75. That's what I've been looking at and trying to use the crease much more -- whatever cues I took from the Asia Cup," he said.
Ashwin said that it won't be a problem that some of the Indian batsmen have not yet got a hit out there in the middle.
"Dhoni never batted until yesterday but look at the way he struck the ball. That's probably a positive. We never really came into this tournament as favourites. We would not want to have that tag of favourites. We'll go into the semi-final, play yet another game and see if we can find ourselves in the final again," said Ashwin.
The Tamil Nadu tweaker did not give indications about whether there will be any experiments with the team combinations now that India have qualified for the semifinals.
"Not so sure about that because it's pretty much like how we played the Champions Trophy. We take one game at a time. What suits us to win that particular game will be what we'll look to do," he said.
Ashwin conceded that the wicket at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium was quite slow which required a bowler to vary his pace.
"It's a bit of variation in pace more than anything else. That's what I've been looking to do -- vary the length and vary the pace. You slow it down, you can get a bit of purchase. There were a few occasions when I slowed it down and the ball actually spun the other way yesterday.
"So I don't know what it is. The wicket is quite slow. But if you're prepared to slow it down and take pace off the ball, you're in with a chance here," Ashwin said.
Asked if the current situation in Indian cricket was somewhat similar to their Champions Trophy campaign (in 2013 after the IPL fixing scandal broke out), Ashwin gave an answer completely divergent from the question.
"There are lots but there are smaller things which obviously nobody hears of. Those are all smaller things, superstitions that we carry. But there's a lot that's similar to the CT. We're enjoying ourselves. For once we're not looking at results. We're not looking at what we need to achieve. If we're lucky enough, we'll be here until the 6th (April). That's how we look at it."