Five things you didn't know about R Ashwin

Unless you went to school with him

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Over the last year or so, R Ashwin has become the undisputed leader of India's bowling attack. He has become the second fastest bowler, ever, to 200 Test wickets, and his career strike rate is better than that of any other spinner with a minimum of 150 wickets.

But Statsguru can give you all these figures and any others you'd care to throw around in an Ashwin v Yasir v Herath argument. What we can give you, via our December Cricket Monthly cover story, is some real insider information. Here are some facts that will make your friends think you're Ashwin's best bud ("machan", in fact), or that you're nursing a dangerous obsession for him.

1. Ashwin was an annoying and mischievous adolescent. His wife, Prithi Narayanan, who studied with him between classes 8 and 10, remembers: "I couldn't stand him in Class 8. He was extremely naughty, and his group, not his group, but just this bunch of guys in class, ended up getting pulled up for something or the other. They were the same bunch that went out and played cricket, they played ball-badminton, they played tennis or football or whatever, and they were also the same group that got in trouble… I was trying to be studious and all in school, but this guy was this brat who would be up to something or the other."

2. When he was in Class 9, Ashwin suffered a pelvic ligament tear during an Under-14 match. It forced him out of school for two months and out of cricket for a year.

3. Ashwin started off as a medium-pace bowler and batsman. He even played for India U-17 as a batsman. The decision to switch to offspin came because of his hip injury. But his coach at school instructed him not to bowl spin in the state selection trials because he thought Ashwin would make it to the Tamil Nadu junior teams on the strength of his batting alone and didn't want to jeopardise the chances of the school's other offspinners. "But when I played U-17 and I was about to leave the school he told me very clearly, 'One day you'll play for India as an offspinner,'" says Ashwin.

4. Ashwin certainly wasn't the coach's pet as a ten-year-old cricketer, because he had a mind of his own and, even at that age, was very clear about the sort of fields he wanted to set. "When you're playing Under-10 and Under-12 cricket, school coaches never really appreciated the fact that you can have slips. But I couldn't fathom the fact that you can't have slips when you start with the new ball. I always used to have two slips. At ten years old, people used to drop catches at slip, make no mistake about it, but I would always start off with slips. I didn't like the idea of having a third man, because a third man was always a wasted fielder as far as I saw, and to actually hit the ball to third man you needed a basic sort of control with your batting, and otherwise you nicked it to third man, so you might as well have slip in position to get a wicket. Right from ten years old, I was always a rebel, and I used to take a lot of flak for it, and they used to drop me from being a captain, not make me captain sometimes."

5. Ashwin loves watching movies. If you do too, and live in Chennai, you might bump into Ashwin and his father, surrounded by Sathyam Cinema theatre staff, watching every new movie shown there. "I just cannot avoid going to Sathyam Cinemas," says Ashwin.

For more on Ashwin, read our cover story in the Cricket Monthly December issue: Chennai Super King.

And there's plenty more to discover in the December issue: the best signature move in cricket (Viv's flick or KP's surge?); the numbers behind appeals in Tests; a case for why the dead-ball law is unclear; the story behind ghosting autobiographies; a photo feature on cricket and music, and more

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