Cricket fans, like any other sports, have always had a blind faith in records and figures when it came to choosing their idols. Hence, when a Redditor floated the claim that Dale Steyn’s 300-wicket feat, which came in 3014 fewer balls than Ashwin's, is actually the fastest, the forum erupted.
Cricket hasn't always been fair to its players while keeping records, and even more so, to the millions of fans who have been swearing by the numbers since its inception. Hence, while ICC's approach towards gauging greatness has often been questioned, it has also been accepted and celebrated by the masses for it remains the only authenticated listings of the sport.
It was after years of claims that Don Bradman had boasted an average of 99.94 that a study of IIM-C claimed that his average was actually 109.42. They claimed that they had considered five factors while calculating it - batting average, consistency or dependability, longevity, quality of runs scored, and opposition diversity. Clearly, the world cricket body has never indulged in such a complicated approach to pick the greatest ever of all time.
A similar instance sprung up again on November 30, three days after Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest to reach 300 Test-wickets in 54 innings as India decimated Sri Lanka in the Nagpur Test. A Redditor posted the question, “Shouldn't the record for quickest to X wickets be based on the number of balls bowled instead of matches played?”
He followed his question with a table that showed Dale Steyn being the fastest to reach the triple ton, in 12,622 balls and 61 matches. The South African is followed by Alan Donald (13,690), Malcolm Marshall (13,755), Dennis Lille (14,952), and Richard Hadlee (15,532), before Ashwin’s names pop up in the sixth place, with 15,636 balls in 54 matches.
While the question brought some people to agree in unison, many tried to find the obviousness in it.
“It's a known fact that spinners toil a lot more than pacers do, especially because on average, the first two innings are less conducive to spin,” said one.
Another user proposed, “if the quickest to X runs be based on the number of balls faced too, then?”; while one stated that a player's bowling average is the best indicator as there’s no point taking eight wickets in an innings if one has conceded 400 runs.
However, each and every stat could be argued and counter-argued and the same happened here too, as there are numerous factors behind a bowler taking wickets in fewer balls or more balls. While a pace bowler may roar with the new ball on the first day getting many wickets and leaving very little for the spinner to work for, the kind of teammates and opposition’s a bowler faces also poses a valid argument, pointed out another Redditor.