CHENNAI: Soon after guiding MRC ‘A’ to its maiden Rajah of Palayampatti Shield on Friday, captain Ravichandran Ashwin emphasised that the 2021/22 First Division crown is just the beginning of what he hopes is a successful decade for the club. Besides sharing his thoughts on the meteoric rise of MRC ‘A’, India international Ashwin spoke to reporters about Tamil Nadu’s struggles in red-ball cricket and the national team’s rescheduled Test against England in Birmingham in July.
On going the distance with MRC ‘A’
• We have taken the first step. We are probably one on 10 at this point of time. With our team, there has been a lot of hard work. There have been a lot of disappointments [in the last few years]. We had a vision; we had a goal. Being a player who has been playing international cricket, I joined a team that got promoted to the First Division (in 2018). When it (Take Solutions) bought MRC ‘A’ (in 2015), I made the promise that I would join when the team gets promoted to the First Division. When we initially called up people to [join] our team, no one turned up. I personally used to call up people and find out [if they were available]. Even when they said ‘no’, I kept trying. For me, it has always been about how to create (make) a difference to this team. We had home ground issues, practice issues etc, but the guys we backed for some reason [got the job done]. I am extremely pleased that we have come through. Everything has been going well.
On what is next for newly-crowned champion MRC ‘A’
• The goal is to probably win more titles in the next 10 years. Winning titles do not happen overnight. There are areas where we need to work on; we were not exemplary in all departments [this season]. Unfortunately, we had a couple of injuries. Ideally, there must be a situation where we use professionals (guest players) according to the conditions. It should not be a must-play sort of a thing [with them]. In a championship side, the professionals do a lot of the job. Over a period of time, they must pass their knowledge [to the youngsters]. All these things are extremely important. They will happen only when we have a vision. Credit to Kedar (coach Guru Kedarnath), Cheena (senior player R Srinivasan) and D Vasu (who oversees teams owned by Take Solutions).
On Tamil Nadu’s poor show in red-ball cricket
• I would like to see First Division go back to the days I started playing. There was seriously good quality. I wish the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association extends the [First Division] matches to three or four days next year. In the white-ball game, Tamil Nadu has been doing superbly. But, if we have to revive the red-ball culture, First Division is the place to start.
On Tamil Nadu failing to assemble a potent pace-bowling attack for the Ranji Trophy
• If we are serious about playing good red-ball cricket, our fast bowling and our batting against fast bowling should definitely go up [a notch]. Our fast bowlers are struggling to find the right length and balance. We must have a camp for the fast bowlers soon. We must also be able to provide better wickets [that offer assistance to pacers].
On the upcoming Test against England
• I find myself in a very good frame of mind. I want to go there and take things as they come. I feel that I can contribute with the bat and bowl well. The purpose of playing these matches (he played the First Division semi-finals and final) is to shift from 20 overs to the red-ball format. As you grow older, you play more and you play smarter. I am trying to do that and I am enjoying my game. I am happy with the kind of cricket I am playing.