For the first few years of his career, commentators would often compare R Ashwin to VVS Laxman, finding parallels between two tall batsmen who didn’t move their feet all that much but timed the ball like a dream. There would be times when India’s top order would struggle for timing on sluggish pitches, and settle for scoring runs in prosaic ways, and then Ashwin would walk out and punch the third ball he faced to the boundary, effortlessly.
India fans have seen many Ashwins at the crease over the last few years – he’s tinkered with his set-up at the crease multiple times, closing his front shoulder in his stance, then opening it up, then closing it once more; tapping his bat sometimes, holding it up and waggling it behind him at other times, experimenting with this and that.
They haven’t seen that Laxmanesque touch for a while, though, not in Test cricket. When he came out to bat for the second time at Basin Reserve, he had averaged 17.78 with the bat since the start of 2017, as against 34.92 until then.