If Ravindra Jadeja doesn’t get you, R Ashwin win. Teams visiting India are quite accustomed to hearing this spin jingle. The Aussies needn’t be told what awaits them when they start a four-Test series against India on February 9. Dustbowls, a whole hog of variations from Ashwin and Jadeja, close-in fielders encircling batsmen like children during story-time and deafening appeals for leg-before.
The Aussies, who haven’t won a Test series in India since 2004, didn’t even want a tour game. They’re aware of the futility of it all since a warm-up game hardly ensures the right kind of preparation against Ashwin & Co.
What the Aussies have done though is they’ve found an Ashwin clone. As part of their training camp in Alur, they have flown in an Ashwin replica, 21-year-old spinner and former tea-seller, Mahesh Pithiya.
The son of a farm labourer from Junagadh in Gujarat, Pithiya didn’t even have proper bowling shoes. Not just that, according to reports, he would borrow money to have two square meals. Naturally, having a television was a luxury – he didn’t even see R Ashwin in action. He first saw Ashwin during an India-West Indies series which he watched from a paan stall.
Now, he is enjoying – and deservingly so – the comfort of a glitzy five-star hotel in Bengaluru in the company of the Aussies.
It’s reported that he was identified by a local coach at a camp in Porbandar. The coach suggested that Pithiya shift to Vadodara for better cricketing exposure.
“I worked at a tea stall in the Fatehgunj area for more than a year. My club helped in getting new cricketing shoes and some others generously donated cricketing gear. Playing cricket during the day and working in the evening was tough, but the struggle was worth it. My parents are very happy,” Pithiya was quoted as saying.
Things changed for the better when he was selected for the under-19 team and started earning match fees. He made his Ranji debut recently, snaffling eight wickets in four matches.
“I consider myself lucky. Throwdown specialist Pritesh Joshi sent my video to the Aussies, who picked me up. I bowl like Ashwin sir. He (Ashwin) kept saying that he liked my bowling style. I did learn a few tricks from Ashwin sir’s bowling,” he told a leading daily.
The Aussies are making most of an Ashwin clone. How they deal with the original remains to be seen.
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