Premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on Saturday came to the defence of the struggling Indian batting unit, saying batsmen from both teams found it tough to score on a challenging surface at the Edgbaston. Despite the 31-run loss in the first Test, Ashwin said the visitors are upbeat about their performance and have taken a lot of positives ahead in the five-Test series
"When you make runs and pick up wickets, you want to make sure that it is a killer blow (to the opposition) and you want to end up on the winning side. It gives you more pleasure out of the game and when it doesn't happen, you feel a little deflated about it. This game was like a see-saw battle and there was enough in there for the pacers," said Ashwin in the post-match media interaction.
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"So they were always in the game and you do expect batsmen to get a ball that has their name on it. With that sort of a game hedging on the balance, I thought we competed really well throughout. There are a lot of things to be upbeat about, so (I am) not completely feeling deflated," he said.
Needing 84 runs at the start of day four, India folded up in their second innings at 162 runs with Virat Kohli's 51 runs going in vain. The Indian skipper found no support from the other batsmen but Ashwin said that both batting line-ups struggled in the game.
"It was quite a tough pitch to bat on. I don't think batsmen from both sides were able to make runs with a lot of freedom barring the partnership between Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow in the first innings, and then Virat Kohli from our side. It has been quite a struggle that way so I think we need to give batsmen some space," he said.
"This was a game where we would have liked to finish on the winning side. No doubt about it. But there are a lot of things we can feel proud of at the end of this game. It's a long test series so to feel defeated or pained so early on in the series is unfair."
The second-best score to Kohli's 149 runs in the first innings was 26 by Shikhar Dhawan. Similarly in the second innings, Hardik Pandya scored 31 runs and Ashwin said that the dressing room was hopeful he could pull off victory.
"When Virat and Dinesh (Karthik) walked out I genuinely believed we had the aces in our hands. And that wicket the first blow was quite crucial. Our talk in the morning was about trying to stick together and be behind every one that walks out to bat. I thought we did pretty well, and even when Umesh (Yadav) was batting, our hopes were alive.
"We did think that if Hardik could lay his hands on a couple big shots we were in the game. I have been on tours since 2011 and that way this team has got a really positive vibe in terms of atleast believing that we can pull it off from any stage. We have done it in the past, particularly in the last three or four away tours that we have been on. (But) If you have to win a Test series in England, that too a five-Test series, we will have to pull off something special at some stage," he said.
Even as the batting line-up didn't click in either innings, India's bowlers came to the party once more. Continuing where they left off in South Africa, they took 20 wickets again to set up victory, with Ashwin taking seven wickets in the match.
The off-spinner said that his county stint with Worcestershire last summer was a great learning experience even as he has now learnt to manage criticism.
"Personally there were quite a few learnings (sic) from my stint last year here. Not just in terms of pure skill but also how the game is being read here, how players go about their business in terms of pacing out their innings, how much the Duke's ball does in the first 40 overs, etc. Those are the learnings (sic) I had and as a spinner I feel the ball is definitely different to Kookaburra and SG.
"I think Duke's is number one, Kookaburra is second, and SG is number three on the list (of spinner's preference) where it stands today. And how wide my grip can be, how close I can get to it as the ball moves on and I felt like the ball was slipping also when I came last time for Worcester. So that was also in my mind when I came this time," Ashwin said.
The spinner added that a more carefree approach has helped his bowling.
"I have just decided to enjoy my cricket and stop reading about anything. I think that's a good way to fire myself up. My personal experience in the last 59 Tests has been the same and it is not going to be any different moving forward because as the game comes to an end I find myself at the end of the same circle. And the circle moves back to the starting point. I will ideally keep myself to the same starting point to keep the circle going," he signed off.