(From Reuters)

Ravichandran Ashwin has emerged as one of the world’s top spinners in the last couple of years and the lanky off-spinner will again be India’s go-to bowler in the four-match test series against South Africa, home captain Virat Kohli said Wednesday.

Ravichandran Ashwin reacts after bowling in the nets during a practice session ahead of their first test cricket match against South Africa in Mohali

The 29-year-old from Chennai has been India’s main strike bowler in recent times, claiming 21 wickets in the recent three-test series in Sri Lanka to walk away with the man-of-the-series award.

India’s limited pace option means Ashwin will once again be expected to take the bulk of the South African wickets in the four-match series starting on Thursday and Kohli is confident the tall spinner will deliver again.

“For the last two to three years, he has been the go-to man in test cricket,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the first match.

“Even in conditions that suit you, you have to pitch the ball in the right area and you see him taking five-six wickets consistently in those conditions. He is definitely someone who has taken his game to the next level.

“The way he bowled in Sri Lanka, he proved he is among the top two-three spinners in the world.”

Ashwin, who has taken 145 wickets from 28 tests, is known for his guile and control, best exemplified in his ‘carrom-ball’ which he flicks with his finger.

“He is certainly believing in himself a lot more now and is a match-winner for India. He is that main bowler (for the team),” Kohli added.

The Indian captain will play a similarly crucial role for the hosts being the team’s batting mainstay. Many, however, feel the mercurial Indian captain needed to be more in control of his emotions while leading the side.

Kohli said test captaincy has helped him mature but it would be wrong to say he has drastically changed.

“The only things that has changed is that I have got 40 grey hairs in my beard,” said the feisty 26-year-old top order batsman.

“Obviously you do make mistakes and you learn from them along the way. I thought I was wasting too much energy in being too expressive on the field at times.

“You get smarter with age and with the amount of games you play at the highest level and that has happened with me as well. So it’s not something very unnatural and I have not changed in a massive way.

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