Having been led all his IPL life by MS Dhoni, Ashwin, now 31, said being named captain was one of the "memorable days" in his life. "I will definitely give my best and have a lot of fun and we will try and play really exciting kind of cricket this year," Ashwin said in a Facebook chat with Kings XI team director Virender Sehwag.
Sehwag revealed that there were two players he had earmarked as captains before going into the IPL auction. Both are current Indian players, both with the experience of leading Tamil Nadu, and both good friends. One was Ashwin and the second was Dinesh Karthik, who was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders.
Thirty-six-year old allrounder Yuvraj Singh, Sehwag pointed out, was one of the other potential candidates for the captaincy, but keeping the age factor in mind, the Kings XI management preferred Ashwin as a "long-term" choice.
Sehwag said Ashwin "would do wonders" and lead Kings XI into the playoffs. Sehwag admitted that he was a big fan of bowler captains like Kapil Dev, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and Ashwin had similar potential to influence Kings XI.
"The best quality in Ashwin is he is very smart," Sehwag said during the live chat. "He understands this T20 format better than anybody else. He used to bowl in Powerplay, he used to bowl in slog [overs], so he knows what to do in T20 format."
Ashwin pointed out one of his strengths was to be "innovative and change things up". Despite the leadership inexperience, Ashwin said he would rely on seniors like Yuvraj and Chris Gayle in addition to Sehwag to help with his job. Ashwin said that Yuvraj, a former Kings XI captain himself, would be the "lynchpin" and the go-to man.
"For me, it is all about Yuvi paaji trying to go out there and entertain the fans. It is very important we play an aggressive brand of cricket. And as far as I'm concerned, I would love to see him play freely and hit those big shots. I'm looking to give him as many overs as possible. I think he will be one of the best batsmen in our team."
Part of Ashwin's plans is also to reinvigorate the "pie chucker" in Yuvraj. One of the marquee players in the IPL, Yuvraj has hardly bowled in the recent past. He has bowled only 10 overs in the last 10 completed ODIs he has played since returning to the one-day side in January 2017. In T20Is, he sent down only 17 overs in 18 matches since the beginning of 2016. And in IPL 2017, he bowled a mere two overs in 12 matches for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
However, Ashwin pointed out that Yuvraj was one of the only two frontline batsmen (along with Rohit Sharma) to have taken a hat-trick in IPL. "More than anything else, I would love to see the pie chucker in Yuvi paaji. One of my strong points is to try and be innovative and try and change things up. And Yuvi paaji will be a very, very internal part of our team. He will be a very big lynchpin for me to try and go for sort of advice on the field.
"The pie chucker in him is somebody that I really like. Many great batsmen including the likes of Kevin Pietersen couldn't play him properly. We can utilise that and get a few big wickets this time."
Two other allrounders, both Sehwag and Ashwin agreed, who would play a prominent role in Kings XI's performance would be Axar Patel and Marcus Stoinis. But there was one other name that Ashwin personally singled out.
As soon as Ashwin was bought, Sehwag revealed one of his "demands" was that Kings XI bought Afghanistan mystery spinner Mujeeb Zadran, who was bought for INR 4 crores (USD 625,000). "He could well be that X-factor we are looking for, but having said that, he is a young guy and I really look forward to look (at) him up close," Ashwin said.
Mujeeb is only 16 years old, but has already earned a national cap for Afghanistan and is currently in Zimbabwe for the World Cup Qualifiers. Sehwag was cautious in hyping up Mujeeb's importance only because he was too young. "Do not expect the X-factor (Zadran) will play all the matches. He will only play a few matches because he is only 16. He will take a lot of time to learn and gain experience."
When asked by Sehwag what his first XI would be, Ashwin said he had a "problem of plenty."
"You've got Chris Gayle, you 've got Aaron Finch, both of whom can open the batting. Aaron Finch is batting lower down the order for Australia, that is some sort of an option which we can look to create. Generally, combinations with decent number of foreign bowlers and foreign batsmen - two and two will be a good combination. But with Stoinis around, we can look at playing three and one (overseas players). One thing you can be sure - I'll never be predictable."