Reports: Ashwin clone in Aussie nets impresses Steve Smith; unheard-of rookie grabs attention
Steve Smith was undergoing a usual net session of his, sweating it out over minute details alongside his friend Marnus Labuschagne, until an interesting piece of the action at the adjoining net caught his attention.
It was teammate and opening batter Matt Renshaw shouting "this guy bowls just like Ashwin", which grabbed the modern-day batting legend's eyes and posed for once a curious distraction from the job at hands.
The "guy" that Renshaw was referring to was Baroda off-spinner Mahesh Pithiya, revealed Cricbuzz, flown to Bangalore for visitors' pre-Test series preparations camp after being identified as a key contributor to Australia's build-up towards the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, starting February 9.
Pithiya was unlike other net bowlers operating in the middle during Australia's first training session at the KSCA ground in Alur. He had been "hand-picked" for the job by the Australian think-tank before the tour through Instagram clips of his bowling in the Ranji Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20, wherein the tourists identified similarities in his bowling to that of the great R Ashwin.
Australia picks Ashwin clone for BGT prep
Cricbuzz revealed that not only did the Australians pick Pithiya for the net duties but also made him feel integral to their plans, giving him accommodation in the same team hotel and making him travel alongside veterans such as Smith, skipper Pat Cummins and David Warner.
Smith keenly followed Pithiya's deliveries to Renshaw, especially after the latter expressed a sense of shock and disbelief about the Ashwin similarities.
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Pithiya is Baroda's young spin recruit, having played only four first-class games and a standalone domestic T20 aged 21. Originally hailing from Junagadh in Saurashtra, he moved to Baroda to pursue his cricketing dreams.
Growing up in a household with no television set available, it wasn't until the age of 11 that Pithiya first saw Ashwin bowl in a Test match during the 2013 home series against the West Indies.
The moment he saw the great bowler run through the Calypso Kings during Sachin Tendulkar's memorable final assignment, he realised his action is somewhat similar to him, something people around him lapped upto as well.
"I was rarely called by my original name. It was always Ashwin," Cricbuzz quoted Pithiya, who was first spotted in Porbandar during a cricket camp. He grabbed the eyes of famed Pathan brothers - Yusuf and Irfan - and went on to train with the former, a hard-hitting batter. From there started a successful journey through the junior cricket ranks, leading him to a Ranji debut in December last year.