Visakhapatnam, October 4: Imagine a child taking a sabbatical from the activity time or grabbing a candy. It could either be forced by an external entity or the result of some sharp mental agony. On Friday, Ashwin, perhaps a tad inadvertently, empathised with a kid who had to go through that cumbersome space.
Eerily, Ashwin's wall of emotions cracked after he took five wickets, his 21st in Test cricket, to keep the Test in India's half. May be it was that the memories of a tough year gone by filled his mind or may be it was the relief that finally he has come out of that phase.
A quick rewind. Ashwin had missed Tests in England and Australia in 2018 and was not included in the playing XI for the two Tests against the West Indies. Then there were talks about his widening relation with skipper Virat Kohli and more evidently Ravindra Jadeja getting move on in the pecking order.
Tough to go through indeed for someone who is the fastest bowler to reach 300 wickets in Test cricket history. It did not offer any surprise when Ashwin said he took a break from watching cricket on TV. The hurt might have cut deep into the Tamil Nadu man's mind, forcing him to move away, even temporarily, from something that he cares and loves intensly.
"To stay away from cricket itself was very tough for me. I've literally stopped reading about the game like I used to do in the past. In as much as you want to know stuff, you want to watch the game. There was a phase where I stopped watching cricket. I just wanted to play," he began.
He tried to hide behind a simple joke, for a moment "For starters, I have two kids who don't sleep all that well in the nights." But he could not stay there for long, may be because the feelings that swirled in his mind were too overwhelming.
"I felt like every time I watched the game on TV, I felt like I wanted to play the game and that I was missing out. It's very natural, everybody goes through it," he said.
So, how did he escape that cascade of emotions and feelings?
"I tried to do a few other things in my life. My life has been all about cricket for the last 25 years. I have played the game with utmost passion. I thought my life, my family, my friends, everybody deserved a little bit more of my time.
"So, I tried to spend a lot more time away from the game, tried to develop a lot more interests. I found that whenever I stepped back on to the park, it was a much happier time for me. I did not fret too much about thinking the game or watching the game but whenever I played cricket I prepared to the best of my abilities. Then there were books, a bit of archaeology work, stuff like that," said Ashwin.
But then there was proper cricketing time too. "I played whatever games I got. I tried and made an opportunity for myself to go and play some county cricket. I played the TNPL as much as I could, played some league cricket in Chennai. It was very important for me to tick those numbers off because that is essentially where I came from. Going back and playing there is probably the best thing that could have happened for me," he said. Home comfort, if you may.
But all the struggles now have come to fruition. A fifer in the first Test innings he bowled in 2019. The fire may just have started to burn again brightly.