R Ashwin has at once been India's most parsimonious and penetrative bowler during their One-Day International series in Sri Lanka.
The 3-1 scoreline notwithstanding, India's bowling hasn't been outstanding. India have conceded 969 runs in 169.5 overs and picked up just 23 wickets, making for an average of 42.13 runs per wicket and an economy of 5.72 runs per over. Ashwin's numbers are far more impressive - an average of 32, an impressive economy of 4.57, best figures of 2 for 46, twice.
"I have been entering the bowling fray in different situations," said Ashwin on Friday as he reflected on his bowling in this series. "In certain games, I have come on immediately after 10 overs, in certain other situations I have come on after 21-22 overs. It's been different. People have been set at different points of the game. I think I have done my job reasonably well. The ball has been coming out of my hand quite well. As far as a bowler is concerned, that's what you have to look at. And the numbers also have not been bad. I think the bowling is coming on really well and what I have been working on has also come out well."
Ashwin said his approach, even when bowling in the Power Plays, has never been defensive. "The mindset is always to attack," said Ashwin. "Unless I attack and get wickets, I don't think I will be in any position to dictate terms in a game. I have been looking to throw up the ball and extract whatever is there in the wicket."
Ashwin was asked if the team's overall bowling was a cause for concern. "Is that so?" asked Ashwin. "I seriously didn't know about that." Upon prodding about the death bowling woes, he said, "Definitely there is work going on on our death over bowling and there have been a few plans that come up. As a whole, it does happen, bowlers do tend to go for runs because we need to find different lengths at different venues. But as long as the team wins, I don't think it should come into question at all. It's 11 on 11, not bowlers vs batters or batters against bowlers. We would like to stick as a unit, that's how we view it."
From a confidence perspective, Ashwin said, it was very significant for India to win their first series after a break from international cricket. "It is very important in terms of getting back into the groove, to know that you are actually back to winning ways" said Aswhin. "The break has helped everyone regroup. The general mood in the team is upbeat, everybody is looking after each other, the company has been really good. Overall, the freshness in the camp is helping. We have also been playing a few soccer games here and there. This 3-1 scoreline suggests we are progressing along the right lines, and whatever we have done away from the field has also helped us."
The series might be done and dusted, but Ashwin emphasised that there was nothing like a dead rubber when you play for your country. "I don't think it is tough to motivate yourself for international sport," said Aswhin. "As long as you are donning your country's badge, it should not be a problem at any point of time. Plus, there is something to keep the motivation going because winning 4-1 will help us go ahead in the ICC rankings. Whenever you turn up for the country, it should never be a dead rubber."