Lafda – A term used by the natives of central and West Central India to describe a petty squab which often has funny or somewhat funny implications.
The fact that Ravichandran Ashwin is not really good at mincing his words is no secret unless you legitimately live under a rock. From never backing down to mankad a batter who is repeatedly getting out of the creasing or getting into a war of words with opposition players (read Tim Paine) or having funky celebrations after dismissing certain batters. Ashwin is not the kind of guy to back down from a fair fight may it be on the field or off the field or even verbally.
Now we are well aware of the war of words between Tim Paine and Ravi Ashwin on the last day of the 3rd test at SCG, Sydney when Ashwin along with Vihari was trying to save the test match for India when the sentences “Can’t wait to get you to the Gabba” from Paine were met with “Can’t wait to get you to India, that’d be your last series” from Ashwin in an equally fierce reply.
But honestly speaking, Paine is one of the rather less fun lafdas that Ashwin has been in. As far as the war of words goes, Ashwin seems to have an extra liking for the England cricket team. Interestingly, Ashwin had pretty bad early matches against England with India getting beaten 1-2 at home in 2012, followed by a 1-3 beating in England in 2014 where another Indian spinner, Ravi Jadeja, would get into a rather ugly squabble with James Anderson.
But the English run-ins for Ashwin would begin in late 2016, when England would tour India for an all-format series. At the end of the 4th day of the 4th test at Mumbai, James Anderson would be asked to comment about Virat Kohli’s evolution from a failed tour against England in 2014 to his prolific run at home in 2016 only to be met with somewhat of a bitter reply from Anderson where he’d argue that the Indian pitches hid Kohli’s technical deficiencies (didn’t that one age badly).
The next morning, when England was 9 down, Anderson would walk into bat only to be met with Ashwin accompanying him to the crease while serenading him with the good old “You shouldn’t have said that, James” which in hindsight I think is a little creepy to say to a guy who is touring your country but hey, worse things have been said on the field. Safe to say that this was just the beginning of the English run-ins for Ashwin.
Just over two years after the Ashwin-Anderson confrontation, Ashwin would happen to bowl to a certain Jos Buttler (who is ironically James Anderson’s teammate at the Lancashire county) during the game between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab. At the 12.5 over mark, when Rajasthan was at 108/1 chasing 180 to win. Ashwin, who had previously warned Buttler about getting out of his crease, would Mankad Jos Buttler as he was batting on 69 off 43 deliveries, leaving Buttler along with several international players irate and creating possibly one of the most iconic cricketing moment in the recent history as Buttler walked begrudgingly off the field.
The battle thought would take a turn to a more hilarious turn when James Anderson, a week after the incident, would be seen shredding a picture of R Ashwin. Not that a 37-year-old printing a picture of another grown man isn’t creepy as well as hilarious with supervillainous overtones.
Ashwin on the other end would continue his run-ins with the English players as late as 2022 when Deepti Sharma would mankad Charlie Dean at Lord’s, sparking a huge online debate where James Anderson and Stuart Broad would weigh in on the dismissal along with Sam Billings (for some reason) who seemed to think that Mankad dismissals are counted as wickets for bowlers (funny how a professional cricketer doesn’t know the rules of his profession).
Billings would again be met with a relatively angry yet sarcastic reply from Ashwin, where he would propose the idea to further incentivise the Mankad dismissals, and somehow earn the favour of Alex Hales (again, for some reason).
Not that weird press conferences, confrontations, tweet wars and shredded pictures weren’t enough comedy. We would ring into the 2nd day of the 2nd test between India and England at Vizag with a weird halt when Jimmy Anderson would stop mid-action due to Ashwin, who was already standing closer to the stumps on the non-striker’s, flexing his right hand a bit, seemingly distracting Anderson and met with Harsha Bhogle comments on the comms “If Anderson doesn’t like it, Ashwin will definitely do it”. Anderson would soon get Ashwin out, but that would not get rid of Ashwin’s antics.
On the 4th day of the test, as England stood at 194/5, Jasprit Bumrah dismissed Jonny Bairstow leg before and Ashwin being his usual self, celebrated the wicket by doing a double fist pump right in front of Jonny to a rather confused yet angry reaction from Bairstow.
Fair to say that Ashwin’s antics bring an entertaining yet somewhat enlightening twist to the game with his tendency to defy the norms about certain dismissals and traditions that are rather sacred to the English cricketers but I would be lying I didn’t say that as long as Ashwin plays cricket, entertainment would never be off the table.