India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara says star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has made changes he believes will help him finally enjoy success in Australia in the four-test series starting in Adelaide on Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference Monday as India’s players surprised observers by taking a rest day three days out from the start of the first test, Pujara said Ashwin had been working hard to conquer his record of under-performance in Australian conditions.
Ashwin has taken 21 wickets at an average of 54.71 in six previous tests in Australia, a return at odds with his overall test record of 336 wickets at 25.44.
“If you see his recent bowling, I think he has made a lot of changes,” Pujara said. “I can’t describe what it is, not in front of the media. But he has made some adjustments which has helped him.
“I always say he is a clever bowler, he reads the batsmen really well.”
“He has played enough cricket in England which is obviously different conditions, not much help for the spinner. So I think when he’s playing in Australia, he knows what he has to do.
“He has also played a series in 2015 (here) so he’s very confident now. And whatever adjustments he had to make, he has already done it.”
Ashwin and batsman Rohit Sharma were the only Indian players to work out in the Adelaide Oval nets on Monday as the tourists enjoyed an unexpected rest day. The team management decided to allow the players a day off after they spent more than 150 overs in the field in a warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI which ended on Saturday.
“We got what we wanted in the practice game and the trainer and the physio has been monitoring the workload,” Pujara said. “We thought that it was best to take a break today and train for the next two days and be fresh for the test match.
Ashwin took 2-122 against the Cricket Australia XI but Pujara cautioned against reading too much into his or India’s performance.
“Conceding 500 runs in a warm-up game doesn’t mean anything … we are not very much worried about it,” he said. “Our bowlers know what they have to do … they know what line and lengths to bowl in Australia.
“We utilized all three days (in Sydney) properly. We also had some net practice while the game was going on so I don’t think it was a concern at all. We got enough practice and we did what we wanted.”
India has yet to win a test series in Australia in 11 attempts and Pujara said breaking that drought was a large motivation.
“Being the No. 1 test team, we always look to win each and every series and this is no different,” he said. “We definitely want to win the series, but one test match at a time.
“In India we have been doing really well but whenever we travel overseas there is always an extra motivation to do well. And we have been playing good cricket outside of India now and this is a very good opportunity for the team to perform well.”