R Ashwin India
Just how can England stop the Ashwin juggernaut?IANS

England will know, if they are to stand a chance of competing with India in the five-match Test series, they will have to nullify the threat posed by the man who has made off-spin bowling brilliant to watch again. R Ashwin has been on a different level for India in the recent past, and India's leading bowler will fancy his chances of adding a fair few more scalps to his name when the England batsman walk into the middle.

Since Ashwin has found that sweet spot of his – the perfect ratio between bowling off-spinners and slipping in the rest of his variations – the 30-year-old has been outstanding, making the batsman's life an absolute hell. Under Virat Kohli's captaincy, Ashwin has been the reason behind India's recent Test wins against Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand.

Ashwin has been the leading wicket-taker in each of those series, and by some margin the best bowler. The man from Tamil Nadu started the Test victory train by picking up 21 wickets against Sri Lanka as India came back from 1-0 down to win the series.

Then, against South Africa, he ended up with 31 in four matches as India dominated the Proteas. Up next to face the Ashwin wrath were the West Indies, who gave away 17 of their wickets to the masterful off-spinner.

Finally, in the New Zealand series last month, Ashwin was ridiculously-good again, finishing with 27 wickets in three Test matches.

After the manner in which England capitulated against Bangladesh and the number of left-handers in their batting lineup, it is difficult to envisage anything other than more Ashwin dominance in the five matches in November and December. It would take an almighty effort from England to stop the Ashwin juggernaut, but if they do, they will be more than deserving of the plaudits that come their way.

Alastair Cook and Joe Root will be the key for the touring team, and England's two best batsmen will need to hold fort, frustrate Ashwin and make sure they do not allow India's main man to run through the batting order.

The problem for England, though, is that the India bowling is not just Ashwin. There is also Ravindra Jadeja, lethal in Indian conditions, and the fast bowlers who have done quite well recently. With Amit Mishra being another option, India's bowling resources look quite good.

Ashwin, however, will remain the biggest threat, that is without doubt. The scary thing, from England's perspective, is that the India spinner has shown that he can shatter a team's batting order even when there isn't much assistance for the slower bowlers. The control that he has in his bowling at the moment is second to none; add his natural in-game intelligence and the awareness of just what is required, it makes it near impossible for the batsmen to cope.

England might have the quality to find ways around this particular challenge, but if Ashwin gets in the mood again, those wickets will start tumbling and the Indians will start celebrating.

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