In a conversation with India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour on his official YouTube channel, Ashwin said he will shave half his moustache and come out to play if Pujara completes the challenge.
It started with Ashwin asking the batting coach, “Will we ever see Pujara hit an off-spinner over the top?”
“Work-in-progress. I’m trying to convince him that at least once go over the top. He is still not convinced, He is giving me great reasons,” Rathour replied.
“If he goes over the top against Moeen Ali or any other spinner stepping down the wicket in this English series that we gonna play, I will take half my mustache out and come to play the game. This is an open challenge,” Ashwin said jokingly.
“That’s a great challenge to put across. Let’s hope that he takes it up. I don’t think he will take it up,” Rathour said.
Pujara was recently seen in action in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia. The batsman’s grit and determination was there for everyone to see in the final Test as he stood tall even after receiving numerous body blows.
Often criticised for his defensive approach, Pujara batted like a warrior in the fourth Test against Australia last week. He took blows to the body, fingers, and head, but did not flinch. He stood tall, defying the Australia bowlers who looked for one opportunity to break into the Indian lower-order.
“Because for some reason you really sledge him. I don’t know why. What the deal there? You really go after him all the time. And him being one of my favourite players in the team. I love his attitude. The way he bats, the way he prepares actually he is a coach’s dream actually. So, I have to defend him against you. I think no praise is enough for the way he batted in the last Test match. The way he responded to all those short balls and all injuries that he had,” Rathour said.
Ashwin explained why he sledges Pujara in the team, he said, “Because what happens is, every time an opponent like Nathan Lyon is bowling, Pujji makes it so heart throbbing for me. Every time the ball goes up in the air, I am like ‘You know what? Nobody plays like this man. You are making him look like unplayable.’ And eventually, everybody will think that I’m not able to make the other batsmen bat like this.”
“He does not. I mean, he handles him really, really well. And the numbers show that. he is averaging 50 plus against him. So, he has done well against him and that’s his way of playing. … He has a very set method. He is a stubborn character and that is his strength as well,” Rathour said.
Both Ashwin and Pujara will now be seen in action in the four-match Test series against England. The first Test is set to begin in Chennai on February 5.