Spin sensation takes on Twitter trolls
RAVI Ashwin said he was better this time, on his third trip to Australia. He said he'd learned what to do here.
The magical Indian off-spinner, the fastest player ever to 300 Test wickets, faster than the great DK Lillee who had the record before him, even took on the Twitter trolls who said he was no good anywhere other than at home.
There was plenty of fuel for the critics. Before Ashwin put on a masterclass on day two in Adelaide, 234 of his 336 Test wickets had been taken in India, and 277, or 82 per cent, in Asia.
His average in Australia, through two tours, was nearly 55.
It was enough for Shane Warne to suggest that maybe left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav could have been picked ahead of Ashwin in Adelaide.
What folly that would have been if Indian selectors didn't back their main man, who said he would back himself against anyone, anywhere.
Ashwin had been eyeing off the long list of left-handers who fill spots in the Aussie top six too.
Of the four lefties, he'd removed three before tea on the second day of the Test and delivered an almighty uppercut to the critics, finishing Friday with 3-50 from 33 on-target overs.
From his first over on day one, Aussie offie Nathan Lyon was extracting spin and bounce from an unusual Adelaide drop-in pitch, and constant groans from the close in fielders followed.
Ditto for Ashwin, who, aided by the perceived pressure the cheering and yapping of his keeper Rishabh Pant created, was tail up from his first ball.
"It's not going to be easy, c'mon Ash," Pant said, then quickly again as Ashwin kept firing.
"C'mon boys. Just keep it there. Oiiii, oiii. Arrghh, boys, c'mon."
It was like Ashwin was bowling at home. After he took down debutante Marcus Harris, then forced Shaun Marsh to play a shocking shot and bowled him, both left-handers, the noose tightened.
He had two slips to Usman Khawaja, left-hander No.3, plus a short leg. The world was closing in on the Aussie batsmen.
Ashwin's teammates know how important he is to them, how many wickets he takes for them.
They did everything they could to let their man know he was their man.
When an early delivery smashed in to the middle of Harris's bat, in a solid defensive shot that would be taught the world over, the loud, sharp, anguished groans from the fieldsmen suggested it was a near-miss.
That atmosphere continued, and with every poke and prod, every shriek, Ashwin's confidence grew. Everything was close. Every ball nearly a wicket. At least that's how it seemed.
When the ball that got Khawaja out, gently kissing his thumb on the way to Pant, was given not out, the euphoria in the field was so loud Indian captain Virat Kohli recorded the fastest ever referral in DRS history.
That was the real level of havoc that Ashwin was wreaking. There was no doubt he didn't have his third left-hander out.
The wickets stopped coming, but the brilliance didn't. Ashwin got a ball to spin between Pat Cummins' legs in the final session.
He even got the second new ball, he was going that well on a day when an Indian force found his road groove and sent a message that this series could spin the tourist's way.