Ravichandran Ashwin surpassed Kapil Dev’s tally of 434 Test wickets becoming second highest wicket-taker in Tests for India. Aged 35, the variation in his deliveries is his biggest strength to trouble the batsmen and he has always given his best while donning the whites for the national team.
India’s leading spinner in Test cricket currently, Ravichandran Ashwin added one more achievement to his illustrious career surpassing Kapil Dev’s tally of 434 Test wickets in the Mohali Test against Sri Lanka. He also became the second highest wicket-taker for India in Test cricket after Anil Kumble. He has picked 442 wickets from 86 Tests so far and is placed at eighth position in the list of highest Test wicket-takers.
The veteran who has mastered the art of off-spin started his Test career with debut against West Indies in 2011 and is now a very different version of himself. Ashwin is one of the rare players who came into the public’s reckoning through IPL and has enjoyed a long stint in red-ball cricket so far. His success in T20s earned him the national call-up for India in ODIs and eventually in Tests. He was a part of the 2011 World Cup winning team but got very few chances to play. Ashwin was also the front-line spinner for India in limited-overs before the duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal replaced him. He has picked 151 wickets from 113 ODIs and 61 wickets from 51 T20Is so far. The spinner is now back in the limited-overs setup under the leadership of Rohit Sharma.
Ashwin’s success in Test cricket can be mainly attributed to the variations he has. He put his long fingers to tireless work and mastered the Carrom ball - a finger-flicked leg-break to bamboozle the batsmen. One of his carrom ball to Hasim Amla in T20 World Cup 2014 was a peach of a delivery as it spun from outside leg stump and clean bowled the South African batter. He has also used carrom ball and his other variations in the longest format effectively.
His trickery with the off-spin makes him unpredictable, especially on the subcontinent pitches. Ashwin is always changing his bowling styles and mannerism on the ground. He sometimes takes a stop before releasing the ball from the hand to see the reaction of the batsman and then bowls the delivery. Sometimes, he changes his angle and becomes very hard to predict. Ashwin has very impressive numbers while playing in India taking 312 wickets from 51 Test matches. The spinner is usually known to be struggling while playing away from home. However, he has a decent record in England and Australia. In Australia, he has picked 39 wickets from 10 Test matches so far. He played a key role when India won a historic Test series by 2-1 in Australia in 2020/21 dismissing Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne multiple times throughout the series. In England, he has scalped 18 wickets from seven Tests.
Ashwin was struggling at one stage of his career when he used to try his variations more often than the traditional off-spin making it easy for the batsmen to read. However, he has now become a bowler secure with his traditional off-spin deliveries and uses variations in between to run through the opposition batting line-ups. The only concern for Ashwin has been his fitness and the matches he has to miss due to that. But the Tamil Nadu cricketer has now learned to look past physical drawbacks and focus purely on skills.
Ashwin now has only seven bowlers ahead of him who have taken more Test wickets. The off-spinner is not driven by landmarks but to keep improving one needs a goal and that will be provided by Anil Kumble’s numbers who is the leading Indian wicket-taker in Test cricket. On average, Ashwin takes 5.13 wickets per match and that might help him script new records on his way before hanging boots.
Except for being lethal with the ball, Ashwin is also handy with his batting in Test cricket. He has 2931 Test runs with five tons and 12 half-centuries. West Indies seems to be his favourite opposition to smash runs as he has scored 552 from 11 matches with an average of 50.18 and four centuries. The spinner who used to play as an opener in his starting years in the domestic circuit has now mastered the art to put revolutions on the ball.
The veteran off-spinner has been at the center stage of controversies as well but he always had a clarity of thoughts while expressing his opinion on the issues. In the IPL 2019, when he mankaded Jos Buttler, the dismissal sparked a debate surrounding the spirit of cricket. But the bowler was clear on his stance that the batsman should not have an extra advantage backing up too much. His another fight occurred last year in IPL as he got involved in a war of words with Tim Southee and Eoin Morgan after stealing a run off the throw from KKR fielder which deviated colliding with his batting partner.
Ashwin’s hunger for success helps him improve himself and he can enter in the top five in list of highest wicket-takers in Test cricket provided his fitness allows him to play for at least three to four years more. Aged 35, time and fitness might not be on his side, but he has the determination to overcome the odds and prove his mettle.