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Spinner Ashwin nearing full fitness ahead of South Africa Test series

INDIAN OFF-SPINNER Ravichandran Ashwin believes he is close to full fitness and is confident of delivering with the ball in the forthcoming four-match Test series against South Africa, starting in Mohali on November 5.

The Tamil Nadu bowler was ruled out of the One-Day International (ODI) series against the Proteas after suffering a side strain in the first ODI at Kanpur. India suffered their worst defeat at home when they went down by 214 runs in the final ODI in Mumbai to hand over the series 2-3 to the visitors.

Following both the Twenty20 International and ODI series losses, India will heavily rely on Ashwin to help the team get back to winning ways in the longest format of the game.

"I'm close to achieving full fitness and I'm feeling fine. I'm confident of bowling well in the series. It is not that we played poorly. We fought our way back into the ODI series brilliantly after we found ourselves trailing 1-2. We levelled the series 2-2 here and it was up to the last match in Mumbai where anything could have happened," Ashwin said in Chennai on Tuesday on the sidelines of a promotional event.

Speaking on the upcoming Test series, he said,

"It will be a close contest. South Africa is an excellent side and they have adapted to the conditions very well. It will be a tough challenge and we will be up for it."

Ashwin, who is the only Indian Test bowler to be ranked in the top-10 of the ICC rankings at No.8, feels the wickets so far have aided the batsmen.

"I am not taking away any credit from the batsmen but I believe they have been scoring runs on wickets that have aided batting. Bowlers need to be given wickets that are helpful to them. I want to see batsmen scoring runs on wickets that aid bowlers," the 29-year-old said.

The Chennai-born spinner backed his teammates, saying that the young players need more time to settle down.

"There are no weaknesses in the Indian side. We are a young side which is gaining experience. There are only a few players who have played over 100 ODIs, and so this team needs to be given more time," he said.

"If you look at the South African side, players like Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers were given a lot of time to settle down. I guess Indian players too need a similar cushion. Before the series began, everyone knew it would be hard-fought and it did live up to its billing."

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