How ‘outstanding leader’ Rohit Sharma helped Ashwin in personal adversity

In an emotional video, Ashwin recalled the events that led to his departure and return during the third Test match against England when his mother was ill.

Ravichandran Ashwin took his 500th Test wicket on the day his mother fell ill in India [File: Ajit Solanki/AP]By Al Jazeera StaffPublished On 13 Mar 202413 Mar 2024

Ravichandran Ashwin has hailed India’s cricket captain Rohit Sharma as a man with a “heart of gold” for his help and leadership during India’s third Test match against England last month, which Ashwin left on the second day when his mother fell ill.

Three days after helping his team wrap up a 4-1 series win over Ben Stokes’s England, the off-spinner opened up on the personal adversity that led to his departure from the team in the middle of the match, his return on the fourth day and the emotional toll it took on him as a top-level athlete.

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“Rohit is a special person, an outstanding leader with a golden heart,” Ashwin said in an emotional video posted on his YouTube channel.

“I would give my life for him on the field, that’s the kind of captain he is.”

The 37-year-old recollected the events from February 16, the day he took his 500th wicket in Test cricket but also the day his mother collapsed and lost consciousness back home in Chennai, India.

“Rohit, me and some other players were having a discussion after the match when I realised my parents and wife had not called me to congratulate [on reaching the 500 wicket milestone],” Ashwin recalled in the video titled “the emotional roller coaster.”

“When I called my wife at 7pm her voice was shaking. She asked me to move away from the crowd and told me my mother had collapsed after a headache.”

Ashwin said he “blanked out” as soon as he heard the news and wasn’t able to think clearly.

“I was crying but I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I just sat alone in my room not knowing what to do.”

Ravi Ashwin says Rohit Sharma’s actions in helping him be with his ailing mother left him ‘gobsmacked’ [File: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP]

The 100-Test veteran was in a conundrum as at the end of play, England were 207-2 with the series tied at 1-1.

“I thought if I leave the team they will be left with 10 players, a bowler short, against a full-strength squad with the game in the balance. At the same time all I could think of was my mother. I wanted to go see her and quickly come back [to Rajkot].”

It was then that Rohit and India’s head coach Rahul Dravid stepped in and made the decision to send Ashwin home.

“Rohit asked me to stop thinking, leave and be with my family. He was trying to arrange a chartered flight for me.”

Ashwin was able to get on a plane, but his captain ensured the emotionally distressed player did not travel alone and sent the team physio along.

“When Kamlesh got a call from Rohit at 9:30pm to see how I was doing, I was gobsmacked! I see an outstanding leader in Rohit.

“My respect for him grew tremendously after that day.”

Ashwin was able to see his mother, who was recovering and insisted that her son join his team.

The bowler returned to Rajkot on the morning of the fourth day as England chased a target of 557 runs to win the Test. The visitors were bowled out for 122, with Ashwin taking his 501st Test wicket.

Ashwin ended the series as its leading wicket-taker, with 26, and has climbed to the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) men’s Test bowling rankings this week.

Source: Al Jazeera