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Ashwin on bowling to Badrinath, Mithun Manhas, Rajat Bhatia: They were my finishing school before international cricket

In his long and illustrious career, Ravichandran Ashwin enjoyed bowling to Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root. But much before he broke into the international circuit, Ashwin honed his skills by bowling to S. Badrinath, Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia in the nets or during First-Class games, and those experiences were of immense help.

“When I played FC cricket, I had the privilege of bowling to some of the gun batters of spin. I have bowled to Badrinath at the nets and he was one of the finest batters of spin, then there were Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia (both from Delhi). These are some of the greatest batters of spin who I would have not wanted to encounter in international cricket. They were my finishing school before I went on to play international cricket,” Ashwin said on Tuesday ahead of his 100th Test appearance for India.

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“I would like to take my hat out to them because they gave me some valuable lessons…”

Those lessons did help him handle tricky situations at the highest level. Ashwin made his white-ball debut for India much before breaking into the Test set-up and his exploits at Chennai Super Kings had a role to play.

“I am treading a very careful line of not making this a punch, but it is more of a lack of understanding when you say that I came through the T20 format. I had a good 30-40 matches in First-Class cricket before I made it to the Indian team,” Ashwin said.

“In the same year I made my Test debut (in 2011), I got a fifer for the Rest of India side in the Irani Trophy. I had played 3-4 seasons of club cricket in Chennai. You might say there’s a standard difference, but I played 3-4 years of club cricket there, probably mentored by seniors, told where I made mistakes, corrected my discipline, bowled long spells,” he added.

Those stints, according to him, built his resolve as a cricketer.

“T20 happened by accident. I didn’t know what T20 cricket was like. I played Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2008 for the first time, we were the winners and then got a CSK contract, which also happened because I got a fifer in a 50-over game playing club cricket in Chennai,” he said.

Back then, he obviously did not imagine that someday he would become the second Indian after Anil Kumble to cross the 500-wicket landmark in the game’s longest format.

“A lot of things need to go your way when you have to get a breakthrough and also continue playing for so many years. I am indebted for all those things, but I definitely wouldn’t agree that I came through the white-ball formats. It was the other way round,” he said.

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