Cricketer turned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar raised questions over Ravichandran Ashwin's status as an all-time great, owing to him not being able to match his home dominance in SENA conditions. However, Ian Chappell disagreed with Manjrekar, and argued that numbers don't always tell the full story.
Sanjay Manjrekar is well known for his analysis and criticism of player’s performance and he speaks about the same openly in public without hesitating. In the past, he has seen players disagreeing with his opinion and has also fallen out with some of them, most notably Ravindra Jadeja, who had a verbal spat with the former cricketer on Twitter.
Two years post the Jadeja fiasco, Manjrekar has now given an unpopular opinion about Ravichandran Ashwin. The commentator, in a discussion on ESPN Cricinfo, rasied questions over Ashwin's credibility to be termed all-time great and singled-out the off-spinner's unremarkable SENA record as a black-mark. Manjrekar noted that Ashwin, who is by some distance the best off-spinner to have donned the Indian jersey, has failed to match his home dominance in SENA, where he does not have a five-wicket haul.
"When people start talking about him as being one of the all-time greats of the game then I have a few problems. One basic problem I have with Ashwin is that when you look at SENA countries, Ashwin doesn't have a single five-wicket haul there. And the other thing when you talk about him running through sides on Indian pitches that are suited to his kind of bowling is that in the last four years, Jadeja has matched him with wicket-taking abilities. Then, interestingly, in the last series against England, Axar Patel got more wickets than Ashwin on similar pitches. So that is my problem with accepting Ashwin as a real all-time great," Manjrekar said on ESPNCricinfo’s ‘RUNORDER’.
However, legendary Australian cricketer Ian Chappell, who was present on the same show alongside Majrekar, supported Ashwin by citing Joel Garner’s example of not having enough five-wicket hauls. Chappell believes that the Indian bowling attack becoming significantly stronger has impacted Ashwin's perosnal numbers.
"I would like to make a couple of points there -- if you look at Joel Garner, I mean how many five-wicket hauls Joel Garner has? Not many, when you consider how good he was and his record. And why, because he was performing with three other very, very fine players. And I think, particularly of late, I find that the Indian attack has been so strong that the wickets are being shared around more. And the other point I would make is because of Ashwin's reputation I think the England players probably concentrated more on keeping Ashwin out and with Axar Patel, well, let's be blunt about it, they didn't have a bloody clue," Chappell said.
Chappell also went on to term Ashwin a better bowler than his compatriot Nathan Lyon, who is the leading wicket-taker of the current Australian bowling unit.
"I think Ashwin is a better bowler than Nathan Lyon. Have a look at Nathan Lyon's strike rate, you are in the 70s and I am going back to 2018. Nathan Lyon, to me, I think runs get scored through the onside when he is bowling to the right-handers and that really just shouldn't happen. Yes, he is a fine bowler but I think Ashwin is a better bowler," concluded Chappell.
Ashwin has taken 63 wickets in the SENA countries at an average of 40.11 in Tests, with his best figures of 4/55 coming against Australia.